Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

International Swimming League (ISL) financer Konstantin Grigorishin suggested at his Stamford Bridge summit yesterday that the "day of the sports governing body is coming to an end" and has called for swimmers to accept nothing less than 50 per cent of revenues from competition organisers.

With swimming's governing body, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), having swiftly suggested an alternative series of new events that look awfully like the ISL's proposed series of new events, the waters of this particular sport are currently being threshed into confusion.

"My personal opinion is that there was a time when governing bodies were very useful for sport and the development of sport," Grigorishin told insidethegames.

"Now if you are talking about professional sport, not all sport, it is professional showbiz.

"Governing bodies cannot take care of professional business entities.

"We have to split the professional show [with] the other sport.

"In commercial successful sports, governing bodies do not play such a big role.

"They can take care of swimming education on how to swim and organise some amateur competitions.

"Secondly, they can have the purpose of regulation, somebody has to establish some technical rules, but not have a monopoly in sport.

"Somebody has to regulate."

Konstantin Grigorishin, head of the ISL Advisory Board, has put forward some bold and exciting ideas about what swimmers might expect of their sport - but there is always the question of balance...©Getty Images
Konstantin Grigorishin, head of the ISL Advisory Board, has put forward some bold and exciting ideas about what swimmers might expect of their sport - but there is always the question of balance...©Getty Images

I am not sure the word "patronising" fully covers this position, but let us just throw it in there anyway. This is patronising. But it is also exciting talk for athletes. The question, as always, is: what is the correct balance?

Getting the balance right in sports, from a commercial point of view, is not easy.

And while it is only natural for athletes to want to reach out for greater rewards for their dedication and skill, there is also another element that comes into play here: be careful what you wish for. All that glisters is not gold - or at least, not for you…

Earlier this month in Monaco, two serial world and Olympic track and field athletes who have seen it all, done it all, sat next to each other in a press conference - and shot from the hip.

Sandra Perkovic, 28, has won two Olympic titles, two world titles, five European titles and six International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League titles.

Valerie Adams, 34, has won two Olympic titles, four world titles, three Commonwealth titles and four IAAF Diamond League titles.

But their respective events are discus and shot put. Which means…well, let's just listen to what it means…

Both athletes took issue with the way the sport has attempted to alter and mould their events in recent years. Last year, for instance, male and female discus throwers competed at the same time in the IAAF Diamond League. There have also been alterations to the amount of throws allowed, with the traditional allotment of six throws being reduced to four.

At this year's IAAF Continental Cup, the innovations went further as jumping and throwing events proceeded on a knock-out basis after a certain point, meaning that the longest effort did not guarantee victory.

Croatia's world and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic has strong views on what is and is not correct about her sport ©Getty Images
Croatia's world and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic has strong views on what is and is not correct about her sport ©Getty Images

"I don't want to be rude," said Perkovic. "But the IAAF are making so many changes over the years and I think it's good for the spectacular but it's not good for athletics because track and field is the queen of all sports, and if you are the best, you are the best. That's athletics. We are not football, we are not handball. But we cannot make fun of our sport.

"They need to give good care, not make fun with stupid new rules. Maybe I am too direct?"

Perkovic also made her displeasure clear about the format introduced for the IAAF Diamond League in the past two years whereby the slate is wiped clean once athletes have qualified for the final, and it is a matter of winner-takes-all on the night in either Zurich or Brussels.

This year, having set a Diamond League record of 71.38 metres in the opening event in Doha, Perkovic was unwell for the final in Brussels, competing below par on a night when Cuba's Yaime Perez won the prize - and the $50,000 (£40,000/€43,000) prize money - with an effort of 65.00m.

"For five or six days after I was so depressed and so angry," she said. "Because it's not easy to compete at such a high level for the whole season. If you are doing a high level it is like walking on a very, very tiny groove. It was not easy for me because I was competing at all the Diamond League events and all the other girls weren't doing that. That is unfair.

"You need to have some advantage in the final - if I throw the Diamond League record I can maybe have some points and be second and still win?

"As for the Continental Cup - it is good for spectators, my mum was enjoying it. But the first thing I didn't like is I need to kick out my team colleague to progress – I need to kick out Nadine Muller. That is is not good from a team point of view."

Perkovic also finished second to Perez, despite having achieved a throw more than three metres further than the Cuban managed.

"I feel we are making fun of ourselves, and if you don't respect yourselves nobody else will do that," she said.

New Zealand's Adams, who took a year out last season to have a daughter and is now expecting a second child, watched the Continental Cup unfold on TV.

Her reaction was characteristically blunt.

"I think with a lot of these competitions, people that are organising forget…"

Perkovic added the words: "the athletes".

"Yes," Adams continued. "And people are stupid for doing that. Because they actually need to consult the athletes.

"Unfortunately they sit behind their little desks coming up with all these 100 ideas without actually thinking: 'okay, we've got this idea, let's put it to the Athletes' Commission to get feedback'. And then decide and actually put it out there.

New Zealand's world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams has also spoken out against the failure of adminstrators to liaise with athletes over fundamental competition changes ©Getty Images
New Zealand's world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams has also spoken out against the failure of adminstrators to liaise with athletes over fundamental competition changes ©Getty Images

“No. That's not what they do. They come up with the whole idea, and they sell it to the meet managers or whatever, and then they run with it.

"And unfortunately they are not only playing with athletes and their competition spirit but they are playing with their livelihood.

"They say it's about TV. Let me tell you something - the throws - and Sandra can relate to this - they put them at the start of the competition. They never show this on TV.

"They show the first three winning throws and that's it. In shot put they show the first three winning throws. As a Diamond League event you are not actually showcased whatsoever, and that is very unfortunate.

"We train just as hard as everybody else, as hard as the 100m sprinters. They say the other events are glamour events. They shouldn't degrade us as athletes.

"They say it's all about TV, but without the athletes there's no TV, without the athletes there's no manager, without the athletes you guys don't have a job. Just pointing it out…"

With a disarming grin, Adams added: "It can be better done. It's about taking the time to value every athlete that's out there and not just on the track. That's the reality of it.

"It's track and field, not just track. We have nothing against sprinters or runners, but unfortunately they get all the air time there is out there. We don't have any animosity. It's a case of how can we better showcase our sport to the world?"

As they rose to leave, Perkovic said: "I think Valerie and me are okay to talk about things. We have experienced everything in track and field, good and bad, and we know what is good."

She added, sardonically: "That is your last press conference ever."

That is unlikely, as the IAAF is beginning to show evidence that it is a federation that truly does want to listen to its athletes, with the recent introduction of allowing national sponsors on team kit at the World Championships being an important acknowledgement of an issue a number of top athletes were getting heated about last year.

It is nevertheless interesting to witness at first hand how difficult it is for commercial drives to be balanced against the just cause of "every athlete". And maybe swimming should take note.