This is an open letter.
The European Masters in London was always going to be huge. You take an already proven event, place it in the premier swimming venue in the world, the iconic London Aquatic Centre; in one of the most accessible capitals in the world; and a must visit destination; and then to ramp up demand even further the major international Masters event for the two preceding years is held firstly in a relatively expensive place for European’s to travel to (Montreal) and secondly in an unheard of and difficult to visit venue (Kazan) and you have created the perfect conditions for a successful event.
At a presentation to the ASA board in 2013 (attended by you and the Chair of the LEN Masters committee) I called the 2016 European Championships a ‘monster’. At Manchester in June 2015 I mentioned that this would be a 10,000 swimmer meet to the CEO of the LOC, who didn’t engage in relation to this discussion but said something about 4500 swimmers. In Kazan in August 2015 in a conversation with the secretary of the LEN masters committee, he discussed the numbers expected in London and the challenges that would bring.
Faced with clear signs of the likely demand how did you/LEN deal with it? It somehow feels completely wrong to talk about the “limitations” of the “The London Aquatic Centre” but you knew from the very outset there would be problems and the event would be massively oversubscribed and you failed to enter into any consultation with the Masters community to enable them to take the right decision for Masters about the event at an early stage; ie how to fairly limit numbers (a debate which should have taken place long before the launch of the website).
This was compounded by allowing people to incur costs by booking travel and accommodation without any suggestion that they may not be able to compete; you also failed to publicise the opening date for entries; and then having decided to limit entries on a “first come first served” basis finally released the opening date with a mere 4 days notice.
The resulting debacle and the ensuing scramble to shoe horn as many people as possible into the event, led to administrative chaos and completely avoidable strain on both competitors and the people delivering the event.
Having fudged that first decision and encouraged the demand you then failed utterly to provide the facilities required to deal with the inevitable consequences for the benefit of the competitors, a temporary pool was the minimum requirement and should’ve been included as should facilities to allow swimmers to mix and spend time together.
The errors and missteps taken by LEN in delivering this event are too numerous to mention and I can only conclude that the income from the Masters had a greater priority then delivering a memorable competitive experience for them.
This event exists for the benefit of Masters but did anyone consult the Masters community about any of these decisions? and where was the voice of the LEN Masters committee in all of this? Did they say anything? Did you listen to them? Were any Masters consulted about the initial decision to link the Elite Championships with the Masters? I would be interested to learn of any discussions which took place and the reasons and rationale behind these decisions. It seems to me that it is a reasonable assumption that the Masters Committees from the various constituent Federations of LEN would have been asked to contribute to that discussion.
I have scratched my head about how we came to be in this position and initially my thoughts were quite generous that “you” in a very British and modest way did not dare to believe that the event would be so successful. I was reluctant to attach any other motivation to this, particularly as I realise that these meets are incredibly expensive to run, but I have reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that it boiled down to money and the cynical exploitation of the Masters community.
The consultation and communication in relation to this event has been woeful, and your breathtaking arrogance in this matter is matched only by your ability to avoid responsibility for the absolute mess that you have created and the utter disdain and contempt you hold for Masters. Make no mistake David, the debacle we have witnessed in London this week is firmly at your door, a fact eloquently corroborated by your absence from the event.
You knew what was coming but failed to grasp the nettle and subjected over 10000 swimmers not to mention 100’s of officials and volunteers to the conditions they faced in London last week. Masters are in this for the fun, camaraderie and the competition and are prepared to invest large amounts of time and (as you are acutely aware) money in pursuing swimming. Masters have a positive contribution to make to our sport and they deserve better.
The fact that the week was successful on some levels, is a tribute, firstly to the hard work and absolute dedication of the officials and volunteers and also your beleaguered LOC who went over and above the call of duty to ensure that the meet worked in a fashion; and secondly the good nature and resilience of the swimmers.
It is profoundly disappointing that faced with the opportunity to showcase such a positive and life affirming celebration of Masters in our country, the legacy of London will be to reinforce other nation’s views that we are a country renowned for queueing, but we couldn’t even organise that, at least not for the first two days.
Your decisions have set back the development of Masters and severely hampered the opportunity to capitalise on this event in this country and probably assured that Britain is never trusted with another major international Masters event again.
You are not interested in Masters, I understand that. We do not sit comfortably with “performance” goals. I have no doubt that certain elements can be an unpleasant distraction. But as we have pointed out on many occasions we are a discipline run by adults and well capable of both running and financing our own activities in a responsible way.
Masters should be given the freedom to make our own decisions and be able to get on with running our discipline without interference or exploitation from the National and International Governing bodies.
Masters needs to be left to manage its own affairs, it is apparent that it needs to be recognised as a separate discipline, and to be free to take the sport in the direction that is best for Masters.
Masters would value its administration being accountable and transparent to the membership, and I would support Eddie Riach when he says we need to be represented at an international level by someone who is truly an advocate for Masters.
I think Masters swimmers deserve an unreserved apology and the disbanded British Masters Committee would welcome some positive discussions with British Swimming as to how we move this forward.