Responses from the CEO of British Swimming ( Secretary General of LEN) & The Chair of LEN Masters

Good evening everyone please see the responses from David Sparkes  and Simon Rothwell, below. It is the intention of the disbanded British Masters Committee (myself (ASA), Eddie Riach (SASA), Geoff Stokes (ASA), Terry John (WASA)) to take this discussion further and I will keep you posted as to developments. This will not be an overnight project. I do not intend to publish all of the correspondence in future but have done so on this occasion just so you know that I wasn’t ignored and both Simon and David have responded.

Masters need to stand together on this and we need to deal with the “governing” bodies in a measured and considered way. I am surprised by the level of support I have received (clearly it isn’t just me) not just in the UK either I may have touched a nerve with colleagues across Europe (clearly it isn’t just us).

I have also been impressed by the level of thoughtfulness in your comments. Please can we conduct this debate in a measured, reasonable and mature manner, it makes our message more powerful.


From: David Sparkes
Sent: 31 May 2016 16:43
To: Verity Dobbie
Cc: Simon Rothwell
Subject: Re:

Verity I have noted your letter, I don’t propose to respond in detail as it would serve no purpose. However I will say that to date I have received numerous positive comments from Masters Swimmers who participated in London from around Europe and expressing how appreciative they are with the opportunity to swim in London in the Aquatic Centre. We all agree there were challenges and we all also agree that the Organising Committee did a great job. There are of course lessons to learn as there are from every major event and both LEN and British Swimming will take these on board in due course.

Regarding your closing remarks on the formation of a separate Masters Federation, this is of course not something I can in my role in British Swimming help with. I suggest if this is the direction you and your colleagues wish to go you need to take this up with the HC Federation who together are the sole members of British Swimming. British Swimming in turn then is the sole member of FINA and LEN, as you are I am sure aware.

I have passed your letter on to Simon Rothwell also as he may want to consider your views both as a member of the BS Board from the ASA and the LEN Masters Chairman.


David Sparkes

Chief Executive

British Swimming


From: Verity Dobbie
Date: Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 18:11
To: David Sparkes
Subject: RE:

Thank you David as I acknowledge in the letter the event improved over the course of the week and was successful and by and large hugely enjoyable as an experience, I am by nature a glass half full person and my report for the Swimming Times will reflect the positives, I do  feel disappointed and embarrassed by the problems which were created here. I am not at this stage advocating for an independent Masters federation I think that we can peacefully coexist and there are mutual benefits to us doing so but we need to be able to make our own decisions.


From: Simon Rothwell
Date: Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 21:35
To: David Sparkes
Cc: Verity Dobbie
Subject: RE:
Dear David and Verity
The event in London did indeed prove very challenging but as you say many swimmers had a positive experience. The entry process caused huge problems not only the size of the entry but how quickly the spaces were filled and then the reopening of the entries. Without a separate warm-up pool and with the limit on numbers allowed in the pool for reasons of security it was always going to be a huge challenge and the LOC and the LEN Masters Committee had to work extremely hard to overcome these inherent difficulties. You are right that at the beginning of the week the challenge was extremely difficult to manage but by working together things did improve. Not something any of us would want to repeat though.
Kind regards

5 thoughts on “Responses from the CEO of British Swimming ( Secretary General of LEN) & The Chair of LEN Masters

  1. There is a lot of positive to say about the event, but also a lot of negative. We can’t ignore that terrible decisions were made upfront that could have prevented the worst.
    A big event is going to have hickups, thats normal, it’s just so frustrating that to most of us it was bleedin’ obvious that this was going to be an organisational nightmare because it was oversubscribed.

    And despite the improvements whilst the event was going on, basic mistakes were still made that were a slap in the face of swimmers. 460 freestyle swimmers were denied even their minimalistic 10 minute warm-up on Saturday, despite the schedule for the day saying that those swimmers would get their warm-up.

    I hope that your efforts lead to a good conversation that will improve future events.


  2. Some people involved seem to have too many hats. This is a LEN/European Masters swimmers issue, not a British Swimming/British Masters issue. LEN has let down all European Masters swimmers here, not just those who happen(ed) to be associated with the host sponsor.

    And though he replies as the Chief Exec of British Swimming, the Gen Sec of LEN all but admits in his response that he has no real interest in Masters swimming and given his position in LEN that must mean not just in Britain, but throughout Europe.

    On a personal level, I’m disgusted that neither David Sparkes nor Simon Rothwell exhibit any measure of regret over the way entries were handled, the swimmers who couldn’t swim in their events because they couldn’t even get into the building or any of the other failings of the event. Nothing could say more loudly and clearly that “we really don’t care”.


  3. So, sadly, we feel as older people, we are no longer interesting when we still love racing, communicating with our international friends, and staying healthy and fit? Just keep going folks, we’ll get there in the end.


  4. This is to Verity:
    thank you for your beautiful Open Letter. I found it only today when playing the internet. It had not made it on the German SwimmingAssoc. website.
    So you warned them a year ahead of time of what was coming up.The remarks by Simon and David are indicative – make these “championships” open for all, that brings money in the cashbox which we then will spend not on silly additional facilities like warmup/warmdown pools (what are those?) for masters but on bonuses to elite swimmers. Such as the 1 mio Euros Mr. Barrelli promised before his reelection as LEN President a few weeks ago. Reminds me a bit of recent FIFA scandals. And first-come-first-serve during the meet. Somehow we will improvise and muddle through. The participants can wait in line, which we will control with our ablebodied security guards (by the way, one of those about three time my size and a quarter of my age got hold of me and nearly broke my ribs when I tried to talk to a person in charge – but the ensueing medical attention I got was without blame!). And please, and I don’t propose to respond to the little problems you mentioned, but, like a good beaurocrat will pass your valuable comments to another person, who is the really responsible one. And that one, Simon, mentions the positive experience many swimmers had. I do not know where he found them, as for myself and the ones I had ample chance to talk to while waiting in line, this was by far the worst international championship I participated in during the last 20 years.

    Performance at this meet (please do not call it championship) was secondary to the organisers. The only qualification really was to be member of a swimming club, not the qualifying times mentioned in the invitation, since without sanctions they could not be not enforced. Incidentally, the pieces of papers handed out afterwards as “diplomas/certificates” mentioned neither club nor country of the swimmer, nor his/her time.

    I am all in favour of greater autonomy of masters swimming in the international organisations. At least there would be hope that the organizing committees of championships would know what they are doing. And do not ever again combine “elite” with master championships. These are two completely different kettle of fish (in which the “elitists” are the sharks waiting with hungry eyes for their prey).




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