Governance crisis at European Aquatics as calls for early elections in February intensify

A petition to hold an Extraordinary Congress to replace the current LEN Bureau with a newly elected one was presented at last month’s LEN Congress.


The leadership of LEN, the governing body for aquatic sports in Europe, faces additional pressure to publicly approve a request by close to half its member federations for an Extraordinary Congress to hold early elections.

The petition to hold early elections on February 5, 2022 was presented at the LEN Congress in Budapest on September 25. Twenty-four member federations signed the document, four more than were required by LEN statutes.

In a statement after the Congress ended, LEN said “A petition requesting the holding of an Extraordinary Congress has also been received. It is currently being assessed by the Legal Department in accordance with the LEN regulations and Swiss law”.

So far, there has been no update and Movement, Europe for All (E4A), the group spearheading the effort for leadership change, on Monday called for the federation “to publicly announce the Extraordinary Congress as requested”.

E4A also wants the minutes of the LEN Congress in Budapest to be released “as a matter of urgency” and also wants to be informed on the “procedures for the nomination of the candidates for the elections” to be carried out in February at the Extraordinary Congress.

The statement noted that statutes require that all nominations be received at least 90 days before the elections. This means the deadline would be midnight (CET) on November 7, 2021, which is less than three weeks away.

The latest statement was signed by 25 of the 52 member federations.

The E4A is fronted by António José Silva, President of the Portuguese Swimming Federation and an International Swimming (FINA) Bureau member, and Josip Varvodic from the Croatia Swimming Federation.

The group is critical of the current administration, citing financial problems with LEN as well as a lack of transparency. The LEN Bureau lost what was essentially a vote of confidence at last month’s Congress by 46-44.

Paolo Barelli was re-elected to a third term as president less than a year ago.

In March, police in Switzerland seized documents during a raid on the LEN offices in Nyon as part of an investigation into financial irregularities.

After last month’s Congress, LEN released a statement that said: “Some false accusations on the administration of LEN have been circulated. Such accusations have repeatedly been rejected by LEN, by the members of the Bureau as well as by an independent third party auditor.

“LEN and its Bureau members are convinced of its good administration and governance and will continue to work for the good and interests of LEN and its Federations.”