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Communication, Transparency and Good Governance…Swim England drops the ball -

Last week it was revealed that Swim England’s Water Polo Development Manager, Mr Andy Fuller, is also the Managing Director of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), and appeared to have been in that role from the date of his appointment by Swim England in August 2018. The original article raised concerns about apparent failures by Swim England in communication, transparency and matters of governance particularly in relation to the risk of a conflict of interest.

We now have Swim England’s response to the article, and in summary its main points are as follows:

1          Swim England knew that Mr Fuller was, and would remain the Managing Director of IFAF when they appointed him as their Water Polo Development Manager

2          Mr Fuller’s position as Managing Director of IFAF is voluntary

3          Swim England has confidence in its employees, including Mr Fuller, to carry out their duties to the highest standards

So we now know that Swim England knew all along of Mr Fuller’s continuing senior, albeit voluntary, role in IFAF; a fact which was not known by the water polo community, nor by Swim England’s own Water Polo Management Group.

However at the time of his appointment on 29 Aug 2018 Swim England wrote, “Andy has a strong background in sport and joins us from his most recent role as Managing Director of the International Federation for American Football”.

Clearly the only reasonable inference from Swim England’s public statement was that Mr Fuller had occupied a previous position at IFAF, and would in future be working at Swim England, not at both organisations. As it turned out, far from leaving  from American Football and coming to Water Polo, Mr Fuller was, and still is, very much leading International American Football as their Managing Director, at the same time as managing the development of England Water Polo at Swim England.

So we have by its own admission, a National Governing Body which, at best, failed to communicate accurately with its stakeholders in the water polo community, and at worst publicly misled the community in respect of the facts surrounding the recruitment of an important employee.

Turning to the central issue about the potential conflict of interest, Swim England has failed to address the matter in its response; the issue has simply been ignored.

As a reminder, the relevance of this for water polo is that it’s Swim England which applies for sport funding and seeks commercial sponsorship for us, and there may be circumstances in which American Football, which Mr Fuller leads, would potentially be in competition with Water Polo, which Mr Fuller also manages, for monies from the same potential funding source.

A quick review of the IFAF code of Ethics shows it is very clear about what is expected by International Federation of American Football of its Directors and Staff Members like Mr Fuller, whether volunteers or not.

The IFAF code states, “Each Director, Committee Member and Staff Member owes a duty of undivided loyalty to IFAF. This means they must make decisions…based solely on their good faith assessment of what is in the best interests of IFAF’s collective membership and the sport of American football as a whole…”

So, Mr Fuller has an ongoing ‘duty of undivided loyalty’ to American Football, which pre-dates his employment with Swim England.

How odd that Swim England appears to be completely unconcerned by the matter, and appears to have failed to recognise the risk of a conflict between Mr Fuller’s over-riding duty to American Football and his duties to Swim England and the sport of water polo.

Swim England may protest that Mr Fuller is professional, and would act with integrity in all potential conflicts, and we wish to make it clear that these personal qualities of Mr Fuller are not disputed.

What is in question however is whether or not Swim England should have placed Mr Fuller in a position where he may be at risk of a conflict arising, and having created such a risk, what procedures Swim England has in place to identify and resolve potential conflicts in advance, and thereby protect Mr Fuller and the sport of water polo.

Silence, being Swim England’s current approach to the issue, is not acceptable and the water polo community is demanding answers.

Sport England and UK Sport’s “A Code for Sports Governance” is clear that all National Governing Bodies, ‘shall be transparent and accountable, engaging effectively with stakeholders and nurturing internal democracy’. We suggest that it is for the water polo community, and perhaps in the end Sport England and others, to decide whether Swim England lives up to these principles.

Perhaps there is a clue as to Swim England’s attitude towards transparency, accountability and scrutiny by the water polo community in the final line of an email from Swim England received by us on Friday 27 Sept 2019 in response to our ‘Something odd is going on inside Swim England’ article.

The Swim England email reads, “We request that you remove the article for (sic) the website as it is inaccurate, and remove the social media posts also. We ask that you action this request with (sic) 48 hours.”

We replied by asking Swim England to identify any inaccuracies in the original article which we would be delighted to correct, and since then…radio silence!

Simply not good enough Swim England.

3 responses to “Communication, Transparency and Good Governance…Swim England drops the ball”

  1. Chris Cawood says:

    Now is the time to break from swim England there is no future as part of this organisation.
    I say this for the following reason.
    1. There are 70000 swimEngland members. Of which 50 maybe are elite swimmers. We pay there wagers.
    2. Swim England believe we as in other aquatic sports are there to fund swimming galas not our own sports

  2. To Christine Whittaker says:

    Swim England this requires a response.

  3. Richard says:

    As an educator making suitable student placements including the need to identify schools with notable strengths in specific sports it appears that organisations claiming specialist responsibility for encouraging development of a range of more niche-interest sports (e.g. water polo, basketball, etc.) in which Britain lags seriously behind, have a lot of work to do to get their acts together when one can scarcely identify a competent school team or club either from websites nor able to glean a reply to an email enquiry.

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