Thursday, June 18, 2009

Could this happen to Swimming: "Formula one racing teams drop breakaway bombshell!"

Formula one racing has a lot in common with swimming as of late. The governing body for their sport, much like our sport, wants to dampen new technology and play favorites.

For instance: The F1 governing body has determined that each team should have a budget cap so smaller teams can compete. USA Swimming is using a similar excuse about age-group kids who "can't afford" speedsuits.

The F1 people have also instituted technology bans that include "winglets" and other air-trapping devices which enhance the car by directing air-flow. This is the equivalent of our speedsuit fabrics.

Consequently the F1 teams are getting pissed off about all this governing body nonsense and want to take F1 to the next level and move the sport forward and use the parts they want.

Example: Imagine if you were told which pair of goggles or cap you had to wear? Well, the F1 governing body does just that to drivers in the form of a mandated ECU gearbox giving one company a monopoly.

What will FINA tell us in the next couple of days?

From the BBC:

"...Eight of F1's major teams have been frustrated by deadlocked talks with world motorsport boss Max Mosley over his controversial budget cap proposals.

"The teams have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 F1 Championship," said the teams.

"We've no alternative than to commence preparation for a new championship."

Mosley was insistent on introducing a voluntary £40m budget cap for teams to curtail a "financial arms race" in F1...."


Could this happen to swimming whereas suit companies like TYR, Diana, Jaked, and blueseventy create a pro league that has an external governing body way outside of FINA's jurisdiction?

All they need is a TV contract and several ,regional sub-meets where kids, masters, pros et al. compete to qualify in a pro-league championship in a suit that the league deems legal.

Think about it, swimmers just might make some money too.

I hope so!

Above is the recently banned TYR Titan...


Anonymous said...

Why don't we also ditch other rules that make swimmers slower? Steroids, EPO and other drugs for everyone. That would bring money to the pools, when the parents start digging their pockets to keep up with the competition.

Anonymous said...

"Example: Imagine if you were told which pair of goggles or cap you had to wear?"
If you read carefully what FINA said, all equipments must be approved by FINA. And on FINA website, they clearly defined equipments as "suits, goggles and caps". So this is clearly what they intended to do down the road.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tony:

Great analogy…you are right on with this one!

Of course certain groups or individuals would resist innovation, it might jeopardize their authority or current position in the sport.

Rob D said...

I think the toughest part of that scenario is the viability of a pro-league. It's a tough sell for TV. The Charlotte Ultra Swim was pretty hyped on regular TV b/c it was Phelps' first meet back. Santa Clara didn't get any where near the attention. A weekly or monthly league race... I'm not sure too many people would watch unless we can develop more than one star.

Tony Austin said...

That is a straw man argument reducing the conclusion to the absurd which I don't think is workable.

Tennis once used wood rackets but now they us carbon fiber rackets

Golf once used wooden clubs now players use graphite.

Runners once ran barefoot on dirt tracks but now both the tracks and shoes are rubber.

Swimmers use to wear wool shortjohns but now they wear speedsuits.

Foam surfboards, titanium framed bicycles, urethane wheels on skateboards, technology has moved all of the above sports forward.

I think you argument regarding "what about the children" does not wash since what about the children who play tennis, golf, run track and field, go surfing, ride skateboards, etc. etc.

Tony Austin said...

Anonymous 2 - I did read carefully and FINA selectively chose which suits are acceptable and which are not despite that all the suits submitted for approval passed their own proposed buoyancy standards.

FINA played favorites an disallowed the JAKED and the blueseventy and others and if I was a manufacturer a pro league would look pretty good to me right now..

Tony Austin said...

Rob, I think there is hurdles but look what MMA and UFC did for street fighting.

I think the hurdles are in regards to presentation nd how swimming is filmed.

Rob D said...

True, but in MMA you get to watch people get hit in the face. Hard to top some good old fashioned consensual violence.

You're right about swimming on tv being all about presentation. I really like the underwater video of the men's 4x100 from Beijing... way more exciting below than above.

I think the thing that the UFC did that was so genius was to get you emotionally involved in individual fighters getting their pro start on The Ultimate Fighter. I'm not sure how this could be applied to swimming, but to be popularly accepted we need stars not just fast times.

Also for what it's worth, from a marketing perspective tech suits are important to the marketing of swimming in America. I think tech suited swimmers are more palatable to an American viewing public than a bunch of guys in briefs. We'd rather our sports hero's look like super heros as opposed to European tourists (no offense to my European friends but in my little beach town a skinny guy in a speedo = euro tourist).

Steve said...

Viability of a pro-league seems doubtful. If it hasn't happened in Australia, it seems unlikely it would happen anywhere else.

Also, I thought the consensus was that most (or at least a few) of the banned suits would end up making it onto the revised list. The suit-makers just need to add perforations to the suits to satisfy the air-trapping requirement, and some of the suits may be passed unmodified. I guess we'll find out on Monday.

Tony Austin said...

LOLz That is so funny.

The pentathlon in track and field is one of the more popular events, Perhaps a pentathlon that includes all the strokes plus open water.

I have not done an ad hoc business plan for a pro league but I think if golf can be presented as fun and "trey grand" so can swimming.

Tony Austin said...

Steve, you are my QA department. ;-)

Seriously, I think a pro league is possible if it were global rather than regional. Have a million-dollar pot and a gaunlet of events to do well in from open water to a pentathlon of events.

Kirk Nelson said...

The day we can compare swimming to F1 racing with a straight face is the day the sport of swimming has truly jumped the shark, IMO. F1 is inherently a technologically dominated sport and it should be. Swimming should not be.

Tony Austin said...

I compared the political situation to F1 and the fact the sport is being held back in regards to technology. My analogy is straight on and I stand by it.

Anonymous said...

We are already told what cap and goggles we wear. I'm on a Speedo sponsored club team and can't wear my favorite TYR suit. Bummer for me, but ... it is what it is. Team rule, not FINA.

Tony Austin said...

Obviously you are making money for somebody else. I hope you are getting some of it. :-)

Ahelee said...

There are swim meets held in other parts of the world that offer cash for awards.

To start, we don't necessarily have to have a pro-series.

Why not one great US event to show off the concept that is already happening in places like Europe?

The Grand Prix awarded Mary D. $20,000. for winning a heck of a lot of races in several different swim meets.
Compared to most any other sport, this is a nothing. But this is where swimming is at now.
How many American swimmers went after that $20,000. like Mary?

That is really hard work - and expense for very little pay.
Would you work nearly all year for $20,000.?
Granted she does have a few sponsors like TYR who support her. But what other swimmers can "afford" to train so hard for $20K?

maly said...

i am attending the french open this weekend , i think they are going to give about 100000 EUROS in prize money with bonus for world and europeen records . there was 500 spectators only 1/3 of the capacity of the place.

Tony Austin said...

That is about $135,000 US Dollars. If they allowed betting on swimming and redefined it as best in competition rather than specialists doing heat after heat, I bet that amount could triple.

I am going to study what the French and the Europeans are doing right and then write up how I would do a pro-league.

maly said...

at the meet in monaco they tried a new formular for the 50 free, 5 races: the heats to qualify the 16 best , than 2 races to qualify the 8th best than a race to qualify the best 4 ; a semi final with the 4 best and finaly the final with only the 2 best.

hoipolloi said...

Tony, I'm so glad you are going to write up how you would do a pro-league. I can't wait to read it. I love the idea, but don't know enough about swimming to envision how it could work.

Steve said...

You've probably already heard this, but I'll post it here anyway. It'll be interesting to see what else makes the list.

Jason said...

I see you!