Portugal's António José Silva replaces Italy's Paolo Barelli as European Swimming League President ©LEN/E4AA

Portuguese official António José Silva is the new President of the European Swimming League (LEN), after the 10-year reign of Italy's Paolo Barelli came to an end at the Extraordinary Congress in Frankfurt.

Silva was elected representing the Europe 4 All Aquatics (E4AA) movement, with its other 18 candidates also successful in their bids for LEN leadership positions at the Sheraton Airport Hotel.

The Extraordinary Congress voted by 92 to eight in favour of dismissing the Bureau led by Barelli.

After the incumbent opted not to stand for re-election, Silva was the only candidate for the Presidential position.

Of the 47 National Federations present in the German city and three online, 96 per cent voted for Silva.

The Extraordinary Congress was prompted by a vote of no confidence from 24 National Federations in the LEN Bureau last September, citing financial problems and an alleged "lack of integrity, transparency and good governance".

The E4AA movement amassed support from 40 National Federations by the time of the Extraordinary Congress, vowing to implement an action plan for its first 100 days of office covering the pillars of integrity, making the sport accessible for all, aquatic disciplines learning and working together, and sustainability.

Silva said after being elected: "We had the courage to stand up and fight for a better future for all federations and all the aquatic disciplines. 

"We stood up and fought for the principles of unity, for openness and transparency for the sacred principles of democracy. 

"We spoke out and demanded that LEN worked with FINA [International Swimming Federation] for the good of the sport worldwide. 

"We can no longer exist in isolation, together we are stronger."

E4AA vowed to restructure the LEN Bureau, proposing three additional officials and two potential representatives of the European organisation on the FINA Bureau.

This move is expected to be approved at the Congress in May.

Barelli has served as the Italian Swimming Federation's President since 2000, and assumed the head post at the continental body in 2012.

In 2020, Barelli secured a fresh four-year term after beating French challenger Gilles Sezionale by 86 votes to 13.

Italian official Paolo Barelli defended his record as LEN President, but said he was standing aside as
Italian official Paolo Barelli defended his record as LEN President, but said he was standing aside as "I would never have allowed LEN to be subject to FINA" ©Getty Images

He defended his record as LEN President at the Extraordinary Congress, before claiming that his decision not to stand again was due to a desire to avoid interference from FINA.

"Europe has become a powerhouse of water sports for competitive and financial results, for image and organisation," Barelli said.

"I have not re-nominated and I am leaving because I would never have allowed LEN to be subject to FINA.

"I hope that the independence of the LEN is not subjected to the logic of international politics and that the well-being of athletes, the development of swimming disciplines and the promotion of water culture will always remain the beacon of future projects.

"Unfortunately, I have strong doubts why this happens."

Kuwaiti official Husain Al-Musallam was elected as FINA President unopposed in June last year, replacing the long-serving Julio Maglione of Uruguay.

Al-Musallam has vowed to implement "reforms across the whole of FINA", with changes approved at an Extraordinary General Congress in Abu Dhabi in December.

Al-Musallam claims the reforms will "completely reshape the way FINA operates" and "bring aquatics sport into the 21st century", including the formation of an Aquatics Integrity Unit.

The FINA President welcomed the outcome of the Extraordinary Congress.

"I would like to congratulate the LEN Family for the successful conclusion of this important Congress - it is important for the future of LEN and all the aquatics around the world," Al-Musallam said.

"I believe it’s time to work as one family. 

"Our goal should be to support the aquatic movement and our athlete with every single step we take. 

"Everybody may have a different opinion, but we should be united to support the development of aquatics."

In its manifesto, E4AA sought to "better align with FINA", "begin dialogue with FINA to identify ways to create more alignment", and strive for a competition calendar that "complements, rather than competes" with the International Federation's.

Silva, a FINA Bureau member, added that "we stand now at a historic moment for our sport".

"After the recent elections at FINA, it is now the turn of LEN," he said during his campaign.

Europe 4 All Aquatics put forward 19 LEN Bureau candidates, with all successful in their election bids ©E4AA
Europe 4 All Aquatics put forward 19 LEN Bureau candidates, with all successful in their election bids ©E4AA

"Sweeping reforms are on the agenda."

He also said a "lack of communication with FINA" was one of the factors in September's letter of no confidence.

"It also highlighted our wish to include a wider range of opinions and encourage debate in the organisation without this being regarded as a threat to be stamped out," Silva insisted.

The remainder of the LEN Bureau also left their positions, with candidates from E4AA all elected.

Croatia's Josip Varvodic, Sweden's Christer Magnusson, Sezionale of France, Greece's Kyriakos Giannopoulos and German Marco Trol all ran for vice-presidential positions on the E4AA ticket.

They triumphed at the elections along with E4AA candidates Andida Bouma of The Netherlands as general secretary and Lithuania's Tomas Kučinskas as treasurer.

Bouma is the LEN's first female general secretary.

Turkey's Erkan Yalcin, Ewen Cameron of Switzerland, Spaniard Fernando Carpena Pérez, Briton Jack Buckner, Montenegro's Miloš Mračević, Noam Zwi of Israel, the Czech Republic's Petr Ryška, Pia Johansen of Denmark and the Faroe Islands' Rókur í Jákupsstovu - who all ran for E4AA - were elected to the LEN Bureau.

Meanwhile, Olympic gold medallist Otylia Jędrzejczak of Poland and Finland's Sami Wahlman - both of E4AA - ran with vice-presidential candidates Varvodic and Giannopoulos in seeking to become LEN representatives to the FINA Bureau.

The LEN had been embroiled in controversy since March last year, when police in Switzerland seized documents during a raid on its offices in Nyon as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged financial irregularities and improper conduct against LEN officials.

Barelli and British general secretary David Sparkes were in their positions that they held until today at the European body at the time of the alleged events.

Tamás Gyárfás, who is also a former head of the Hungarian Swimming Federation, was LEN treasurer at the time, even though in 2019 he had been charged with ordering the murder of a rival media member in 1998.

Barelli, Sparkes and Gyárfá were reported to European authorities in 2020 over allegedly authorising six-figure payments to third-party companies over a period of five years.

They deny wrongdoing, and the LEN dismissed the accusations as "false" back in March last year.