26 abril 2018

FINA Waterpolo World Conference videos, Budapest 2018

Schedule: 9:00 - Theme 11: How to stage exciting events 11:00 - Coffee Break 11:15 - Theme 14: Water Polo and the Olympic Games – 100 years together 13:15 - Lunch 14:30 - Roundtable Theme 6: Water Polo Rules 16:30 - Coffee Break 16:45 - Roundtable Theme 15: How to expand our sport beyond the Olympic footprint 19:00 - Dinner

Schedule: 9:00 - Theme 16: New activities in Water Polo 10:20 - Coffee Break 10:35 - Theme 18 – Game improvement solutions
12:30 - Press Conference & Lunch

FINA Communication Department
After the success of the FINA World Championships 2017, where the water polo final between Hungary and Croatia brought together 8000 fans to the cradle of the sport, FINA is back in Budapest, Hungary.
This week, from April 26-28, the International Water Polo Community gathers in the Magyar capital for the FINA World Water Polo Conference.
Over 250 participants, including 163 National Federation delegates, will discuss the future of the oldest Olympic team sport.
The Conference will feature more than 40 speakers who will address 19 different topics. A key component of the conference will be to discuss the sports' rules and competition formats. Thanks to the extensive and comprehensive programme, the Conference will offer a unique platform to exchange ideas and best practice.
Experts will also weigh in on what it takes to succeed in areas such as development, media, broadcasting and events, helping Water Polo strive for more success in the future, on a global scale.
Key statistics for the conference include:
  • More than 250 participants, including experts and FINA Family members (27 from Africa; 26 from Americas; 29 from Asia; 141 from Europe; 7 from Oceania)
  • 163 national federations' representatives (27 from Africa, 26 from America, 29 from Asia, 73 from Europe, 7 from Oceania)
  • Participants hail from 111 different countries (24 countries from Africa, 24 countries from America, 23 countries from Asia, 34 countries from Europe, 6 countries from Oceania)
A press conference is scheduled on Saturday, April 28, at 12:30 upon the conclusion of the conference.  
For more details, please refer to the full programme 

FINA Communication Department
The FINA World Water Polo Conference kicked-off today, Thursday April 26, in Budapest, Hungary, as FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione addressed the delegates with a welcome message, reminding the latest challenges the sport is facing. 
Underlining that the Conference is currently taking place in the water polo nation by excellence, Hungary, where the sport is so popular as demonstrated last summer at the 17th FINA World Championships, the President emphasised that in order to develop water polo at grassroots level, the sport needs to innovate. Modernising the game and engage with the youth of the world is a top priority.
After an accelerated history lecture about the latest 150 years of water polo history presented by water polo coach Yannis Giannouris (below) who reminded that the sport was initially funnily referred as football in the water, today’s discussions in Budapest started with a panel of experts in Brand, Communications and Image.
Yannis Giannouris, Water Polo Coach
FINA spoke with Olympic communications and bidding campaign specialist and consultant Terrence Burns, who insisted on the narrative water polo has to develop.
“Before talking about promotional tactics, we should go way back. I think that you have to create a strong brand narrative, a real story about water polo. You need to identify why it is important to the consumers and the fans. And then the tactics follow.”
Reminding the audience that a sport needs to define its own brand before anything else, Burns said to FINA:
“During my presentation I was really referring to the Why. You have to come up with the Why before you come up with the How. In this case, why is water polo unique? Why is it different from any other team sport? And why is that valuable to the consumer?”
After researching and gathering insights for the sports community, Burns was confident that water polo has a uniqueness to its game:
“Water polo has a uniqueness, it is a functional one. Functionally water polo is quite different. It is a three-dimensional sport to start with. You are competing against an actual field of play itself and functionally those things are interesting. You have to take these and make it an emotional valuable benefit.”
Taking the example of renowned car brands, Burns said:
“What are we trying to sell with water polo and how is it different from other sports it competes with.”
“As a brand, you have to be consistent across all markets. The key to any successful sport is to be consistent with its brand values, whether it is an Olympic or non-Olympic sport. They shouldn’t change depending on where you are in the world. Consistency is crucial. You have to sell the same emotional promise whether you are in Dubai, Santiago or Atlanta. You want to have the same message.”
Water polo’s future in the Olympic programme was also presented by FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu (below) earlier this morning. He confirmed that following meetings with top decision-makers at the International Olympic Committee, FINA agreed that 12 teams for men and 10 teams for women with 11 players per team will be the new norm at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu
Coming back to the topic, Burns concluded the interview by saying that he knows what the International Olympic Committee is looking for.
“Sports have to work to be more appealing to watch. Obviously, that is what the IOC wants from all of the sports. All sports are under pressure to modernise and I think that water polo should respond proactively to this new trend. Water polo needs to change now!”
“Everybody was surprised at how well rugby seven did in the Olympics and how exciting the sport was. But I think that beach volleyball is the goal standard for how they completely changed the fans experience by focusing on the values and the palyers. These are great inspirations for water polo.”

Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee Member
FINA World Water Polo Conference began in Budapest today with 224 delegates from 107 nations set to take a quantum leap in how the sport will be governed and promoted in coming years.
This follows the previous conference in Cancun, Mexico four years ago. The determination of the new FINA Technical Water Polo Committee and a large team of advisers, coaches and sport leaders amalgamated to present a raft of ideas and thought-provoking suggestions to put before the delegates. Some of the more interesting sessions will come on Friday when experts have a round-table discussion on the proposed new rules.
With the advent of 11 players per team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, timelines will be discussed that allow for testing of new rules and how the 13-person game would turn into 11 persons, especially with the all-important qualification series for the Olympics.

The FINA President Dr Julio C. Maglione
FINA President Julio Maglione opened the conference by saying that “universiality is a serious challenge”.
“That’s why we have to better promote it, to the public that watch it from the stands and to the viewers that enjoy it on TV screens and digital platforms.
“For the first time in Olympic history, FINA will be the international federation with the highest number of medals in the Olympic programme of Tokyo 2020. Water Polo is part of this success. But, we have to make it even stronger!
“Questions have been arisen at the IOC level about the universality in the sport. This implies a serious challenge: the continuity of water polo in the Olympic Games.
“It is in our hands the solution to change this perception. Our world moves forward with the times so must we. And we must continue to be challenged, in order to make sure that our sport continues growing and developing in the five continents.
“Together we can share the magic of our sport with the world! We can make it more understandable, more popular and more engaging for the youth.”

Session 1

Delegates were taken through the near-150-year evolution of the game thanks to Yiannis Giannouris, a renowned player, coach and historian.
The situation of “where we are now” was tackled by FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu and the sport’s importance to the Olympic movement. Statistics he provided showed how aquatics and, water polo, in particular enhanced the Olympic Games.

Dr Margo Mountjoy, Erik van Heijningen, Manuel Ibern, Andrey Kryukov
FINA Bureau Members Eric Van Heijningen, TWPC Chairman Manuel Ibern and FINA Bureau Liaison Andrey Kryukov all spoke on “where we want to go”.

Session 2

Session two dealt with brand, communication and image and the need for FINA to have a presence on all levels of social media.
The speakers were Terrence Burns, Executive Vice President Global Sport at Engine Shop Agency and Matthias Lufkens, social media expert at Swiss-based Burson Marsteller.
Water polo reform. One suggestion to FINA was that FINA TV should be made free to anyone who wished to view to help promote the sport.
Water Polo Reform 21 was presented to the room with the changes required to lift the sport and take it to the 150-year anniversary in 2021.
Wim Keman, FINA TWPC Honorary Secretary, Andrey Kryukov and Dragan Jovanovic, Director General of the World Water Polo Coaches’ Association, presented the desires of a multitude of experts’ thoughts on the conduct of the sport. Keman presented the results of questionnaires sent out to national federations and these ideas form the basis of changes to come. Jovanovic was hard pressed to make his detailed presentation in the time required.
His SWOT analysis was most instructional and time did not permit him to outline his determinations, although these will be covered in following days.

Session 3

The first afternoon session had Giannouris take us through the history of rules, followed by Ibern speaking about the objectives needed to clean up the rules, limit the tactical monopoly of the centre forward, which is a static style, and the constant flow of referee whistling.
He spoke of needing to keep the match moving, continuity of action, less reliance on extra-man goals to the detriment of exciting action goals. Less contact and the need for adequate punishment for major fouls will be something that will be treated in later sessions.
Also speaking in the session were TWPC Member Bill Shaw and Jovanovic. Shaw spoke of the need to standardise the rules in a clearer language with the aid of a consultative committee of various experts and non-experts. Jovanovic touched on proposed rules changes that would be presented later, including: Shifting the 5m line to 6m; allowing the goalkeeper over halfway; allowing corner throw person to drive in and shoot without passing; a delayed exclusion; ball taken upfield within 10-15 seconds and not come back over the half; a maximum of two timeouts per match; a game video monitoring system; two extra players on roster for World League and World Cups, except in Olympic year and also the introduction of wireless headsets for referees to communicate with each other and the delegate to save stoppage time.

Mark Koganov
Referees came under the spotlight with TWPC Vice Chairman Mark Koganov talking of the need to minimise interpretations, support the referees financially, assist in education and minimise referee impact on the game. He also dealt with match delegates and digital grading system for referees that will produce a ranking system by December 2019.
Danny Kurmann, a retired International Ice Hockey Association referee, gave a view of how his sport deals with officiating. He used videos to explain how technology is utilised in the sport to make clear decisions quickly.
Five-time Olympic referee Boris Margeta, the president of the World Water Polo Referees’ Association, spoke on the need of a ranking system, which is used in other major sports. He said that referees need education “every day”, clear collaboration with technology and included into a FINA database following their careers. He spoke of the new TWPC referee sub-committee that would evaluate, mentor, educate and classify referees and be overseen by experts, appointed by the TWPC. He classified the groups and spoke of people arriving at the FINA List at “45, 46, 47. We start old”.
One promising group is young referees (30-35); another group (30-60) and group A (top referees). Elite referees fill the top group and officials who have been at the elite level for five years.
He said “it will create an environment without politics” and increase the quality of referees. Session 4 The final session of the day started with a look at new technology to assist with match officiation.
FINA TWPC Member Takeshi Inoue outlined how wireless headphones were used at the recent Intercontinental Tournaments in New Zealand and will be used in the upcoming Super Finals. He looked at how the ERIC system was also used and how cameras will be used in the future, included one above, behind goals and from the two-metre line.

An attentive audience
FINA Events and Services Manager Will Bastin presented how FINA handles data, dragging information from GMS, and how results have been inputted going back to the 1973 FINA World Championships, Olympics back to 1980 and all the other FINA events. He outlined how live results and graphics on mobile and computer formats make the sport more interesting, putting FINA up with other leading sports.
“It’s really about presentation and getting the public to understand the data.”
Alex Garcia, of ERIC Sports, presented the video analysis system and its benefit for water polo. It can be used online and offline and even produce data analysis at halftime.
Coaches took the stage next with Adam Krikorian (USA), Yoji Omoto (JPN), Lance Rochester (JAM), Denes Kemeny (HUN) and Ratko Rudic (CRO) answered questions on their philosophies. With nine Olympic gold medals between three of the coaches, their answers were eagerly anticipated.

The Coaches
The views of the top nations contrasted with Japan’s smaller, but fast, athletes and Jamaica’s need for assistance and desire to evolve. Krikorian said that the sport needs trust (“without trust we cannot move forward”), alluding to the survey presented earlier that 86% of respondents thought that matches were “fixed”.
In the final theme of the day, members of the FINA Athletes’ Committee – Maggie Steffens (USA), Aaron Feltham (CAN), Kelsey White (RSA), Istvan Gergely (HUN) and Aaron Younger (AUS) – spoke of their ideas on the current status of the sport.
Gergely and Steffens are dual Olympic gold medallists.

FINA Communication Department
The second day of the FINA World Water Polo Conference started with speakers from the broadcast world.
International Olympic Committee’s Jochen Farber, Head of Olympic Channel Service, shared his vision of what makes a sport attractive for the screens and what allows nowadays a sport to engage with the youth of the world.
“The experience on the ground, the fans experience at the game is of course very important. Peter Diamond (NBC Executive Vice-President Programming) and the other speakers explained that the venues need to be full, not huge, but full of emotions and focus on the athletes and sport presentation.”
“This is undoubtedly the first thing to look at.”
“Then you have to spread the message across and put it outside to the world. You can either do the big stuff with a costly live TV production or you can choose to do less and focus on a smaller production and prepare smaller pieces that work very well on social media. Putting your event out on social media is key without breaching the TV contract that FINA has put place of course.”
“There are some very easy creative ideas how you can do it and share it across your platforms. There are many ways to engage with your community.”
During his interview with FINA, Farber came back on the importance of creating stars and giving a voice to the athletes was underlined.
“Ahead of the event you can start creating content around the athletes and their preparation. You can do a lot of funny content with the athletes arriving to the venue. You start creating more personal pieces of content that will already allow the public to feel closer to the players. The personalities of your sport will stand out.”
“You can then cross-promote all of this content on all your platforms building up to your events. During the event, you repeat the process with quick flash quotes and first reactions. You put emotions out. And again, the same when they fly home, you can do a recap and ask them about the near future.”
Regarding OTT streaming platforms and in particular FINAtv that was launched days before the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest last summer, Farber said:
“This is the biggest challenge. The paid platforms are always a big discussion. It would probably work with a huge World Championships or a major international competition but will it work with water polo?”
“The IOC launched the Olympic channel with a clear objective – approaching the youth. We have decided not to put it behind a paid wall because we didn’t see an opportunity to really make money with this. We saw there a unique way to reach to the younger generations and speaking with them and sharing our values.”
“We always offer to FINA and other IFs to use this platform to share their content instead of creating their own. We can easily cross-promote your aquatic content and drive the viewers to your platforms.”

FINA Communication Department
FINA Athletes Committee Member Aaron Feltham of Canada was part of the athletes’ panel on April 26 in Budapest, Hungary, where the FINA World Water Polo Conference is currently taking place.
Voicing the players’ point of view in the various discussion together with other athletes invited, Feltham also sat at the round table on the second day (April 27) to review the rules with the rest of the group of experts taking part in the exercise.
FINA asked him about the number one thing to be changed in water polo.
“The discussions here in Budapest have been very good. Some great things have been brought up. I really like some rules changes that have been proposed but I still am a firm believer that marketing and the emotion of our sport is the number one thing.”
“We have the ability in this day and age to ask the general public’s opinion and find out what they think, especially those who are not immediately in the water polo circle. We can find out so much information and what they are truly looking for and what would make it attractive to them. I think this is how we are going to grow exponentially. We don’t even know the potential of our growth because we have not tried to exploit it yet. The marketing of the sport is where I see the most potential.”
Australia's Aaron Younger agrees with Feltham regarding the marketing work that has to be done.
For Feltham, water polo has so much to offer.
“The uniqueness of water polo comes from the fact that it is a team sport in the water. We have extremely fit athletes and we are known to be some of the fittest athletes in the world. This comes hand in hand with great bodies and really good looking people.”
“I don’t see any shame in promoting that in an age where health and fitness is becoming more important especially in markets like the Americas. To promote that physical fitness on every single level and promote our athletes, our specimens of good and sexy bodies is a perfectly fine thing to market for us. This is the amazing product that we have now.”
Referring to the success of Team USA, Canada’s neighbours, Feltham is convinced that this has had a huge influence in the development of the sport.
“Any time you have success near you, people are following it. Then it is all about how you exploit it and show it off. You can have success and people get excited for a small period of time or you can try and ride the wave a little longer. It takes a clever marketing strategy to push and transform that success into a positive thing.”
“The women (USA) are doing really well. They are a great inspiration for our kids. We just need to reach the kids and tell them a story. We can tell that story and make it appealing, make a successful product to attract more people.”
As often as possible, Feltham confesses that he loves to be involved with local clubs and help at grassroots level.
“I do a little bit of contracting work for water polo clubs in Calgary (CAN) and I just love to help and do stuff. I sometime volunteer for a week or a month to help on specific projects and I really enjoy that, connecting with the athletes.”
Feltham advises kids to just try it!
“It is such a cool sport because you get to swim and splash around. You get to throw a ball and play with that which is fun too. You are in a team atmosphere so you have a bunch of new friends to be around. Those three things come with amazing skills once you learn them. You just have to try it!”
He continued by mentionning various interesting rituals water polo players do that are still unknown from the wider public.
“The personality of the people in water polo are incredible. At big events, you can grab any athlete and ask them about their story. For example, some players throw their cap in the water before they jump in. We can ask them why do they do that. Some players like to do five jumps, some goalies like to kiss the cross-bar, we can ask them when that ritual started.”
“All of these things create a closer connection between the players and the fans and future fans. It would also bring the players closer to FINA and they would feel like we care about what they do.”
Feltham concluded the interview by saying:
“One of the great things with this Conference so far is that we have seen a lot of timelines for the different projects that are proposed, like Reform 21. If we see that Reform 21 take the first steps that is going to be huge.”
“We know that in order to make progress we need an action plan. Myself and the Athletes Committee would really love to have an active role and be involved in all of this. It is great to have been invited to come here and give our vision. To be involved in the conversations and go to the Reform 21 brainstorming sessions would be even better. We have an amazing Commission that is very talented not just as athletes and I would love that we can give our input on how to help the events and make them more fun. The athletes point of view is huge.”

Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee Member NZL)
Day two of the FINA World Water Polo Conference concentrated heavily on “the other side” of the sport – sponsorship, marketing and what big companies desire for their advertising dollar. Then coaches and experts took over for several round-table sessions in the afternoon.
The five continents were represented with coaches and water polo experts giving their opinions.

Session 1

The first session of the day was dedicated to staging exciting events.
Luke Campbell, of Great Big Events, presented his company’s ethos of how best to display sport to gain the biggest reaction, promotion and enthusiasm. GBE was responsible for the presentations of all the disciplines at Budapest 2017.
He spoke of innovation and the use of music, large video screens, voice of the event, graphics and packages, scripts, broadcast coverage, sport protocols, results and timing, technical infrastructure, cameras, pyrotechnics and setting the atmosphere.
Campbell spoke of how innovations included the introduction of athletes; crowd engagement; music suitable for local consumption; tweets on the big screen and the assimilation of statistics.
“It’s important to choose the right people to work at each of your events.”
He said the person needs to know the sport, the terminology and know when and when not to speak.
“This is an integral part of the element.”
Paola Bosio, a sport presentation expert, based her presentation around entertaining fans in a positive attitude to create an unforgettable water polo event. She stated that music is 50% of the success of the event and that a professional DJ is a must for a major event. She reiterated what Campbell introduced with energetic music and the use of professional speakers, “not those improvising”.
"The speaker becomes the professional voice. The speaker needs to educate the fans. His/her role is “to entertain, pre, post and during the match”.
She suggested there could be two speakers with one just covering the match.
“They must be good speakers and you need to train them.”
She also suggested that there be artistic swimmers, graphics for goals, swim-ups, timeout, kiss cam, fancy dress, dancing and children. This could contain dancers, acrobats, cheerleaders and light shows.
The next theme was on how to make the game more attractive.
Jochen Farber, head of Olympic Channel Services, was joined by Peter Diamond, NBC Executive Vice President Programming, and Marco Birri, LEN expert.
Farber said the Olympic Channel, launched after the Rio 2016 Olympics, contains 11,000 pieces of content, which is all available to federations.
The channel has 6.7 million followers on social media and 1.4 billion views since August 22, 2016.
The idea is to become a comprehensive sport database with current and historical results. Diamond said the sport of aquatics is helping in “making improvements” and that “everybody is moving in a like-minded direction”.
He pleaded with water polo to “stop the whistles. People just don’t understand. If you’re trying to attract a wider audience, reduce the whistles. “International Ice Hockey has got it right. Let the players play.”
He asked for referees to be “brought into the game” by “microphoning” them so that spectators can hear what decisions are, more quickly.
He said FINA had made a lot of progress across all its events.
“The key word is modernise.” He said the first and most important thing is to fill venues. “Cameras are drawn to empty seats.”
He urged organisers to rig nets with lighting for when goals were scored and anything that can be done to the field of play to make it clearer.
“Clarity, simplicity and understanding for spectators, was important.”
Friendly statistics were also a must, he said.
Like in Cancun, Mexico four years ago, he stated that television operates in half hours and that water polo at 67 minutes a match was the wrong length. It needed to be inside the hour or 90 minutes. Building stars and doing everything possible federations can do on social media was the best way to enter the competitive landscape around the world.
“It is time to act. If you don’t act you will fall behind. Seize the initiative with the enthusiasm coming out of this meeting.”
Birri, on making the game more attractive, said we needed to make the game more “visible”. 
He stated that the sport had excitement, impressive skills, crowds and exposure. There were benefits and he touched on brand development, creating logos, coherent branding guidelines, advertising banners. The field of play needs to look like an arena and spectators must say “that this is an event”. He believes it is a good television product, but the format needs to be short and spectators given clear and informative graphics.
“Make it easy to understand and create a show and also respect the competition schedule (for television). He mentioned “storytelling” as a way to promote our athletes.

Session 2

Pere Miro, Deputy Director, International Olympic Committee, gave an interesting and humorous talk on Water Polo and the Olympic Games.
“Credibility, values, understanding, fair. This is credibility.”
In sustainability, maybe it could be development. Maybe to go beyond what you are doing today.
“The youth is not interested in the Games. I am thinking which kind of synergies could be used in water polo.
“There is a need for modernisation; the need to adapt to the evolving society. Our public is probably beyond 40s. Under 40s, youth interested less and less in the traditional way we present the sport.
“We need to analyse each Games for the next Games. No one is safe,” he said of each sport.
“Everyone needs to be reviewed. For 2020, you have been the only team to increase the number of teams. That is thanks to your executive, especially your president.”
He said that we need to become more and more attractive. As a former Spanish first-league player, he said the game used to be fast, more dynamic.
Sports sponsorship and partnerships
Richard Tattershaw, founder of Sport Hit Factory and director of marketing of Sport Group was the lead speaker.
“Sport is up against stiff competition. We’re up against Disney, the whole of Silicon Valley, more homework and parents have less time to take kids to sports events.
“Their playing field is a screen -- a screen is in every pocket. There is a growing gap between the international federations, domestic federations and the market place. It is exploding in all directions.
“How does that body take on entertainment, on Disney, who is also in the entertainment business?”
Creating the right product for the market, creates market value, which drives revenue. Hockey redesigned itself and went to the market, he said.
“Water polo is awesome as a product, not the game.”
He spoke of the “market needs” and the success of 20-20 cricket.
“Sport generates unique passion and emotion. If you can capture love with your product, you can make hits.”
Kristian Gotsch, director of EMEA, Two Circles, spoke on evolving the sponsorship model. He brought insight to the way companies think when spending money on sponsorship, with target markets. He mentioned Brands, rights holders, media and fans. Everything is in flux. Fans are changing the way they access information. The media landscape has changed as has rights holders’ assets, because of technology. Brand strategies have changed, as well. Brands have gone digital more than television in 2016.
How to grow our sport beyond the Olympic Footprint
Dale Neuburger, Chairman of the FINA Development Commission said how FINA has allocated almost $11 million this year towards the programme.
There are to be 160 clinics for coaches and referees with an average investment of $7500. FINA Schools have a $US360,000 budget for 60 schools a year. A coaches’ certification programme will have 50 clinics with an average $US6000.
The FINA National Development Programme will see nine courses at an average cost of $US80000. The main aim is to lift performance at all levels. FINA will send professionals to assist countries, enabling emerging federations to structure their technical staff as well as to train them.
Other programmes include the FINA Olympic aquatics support programme with $US25.000 for 209 federations; the e-learning platform to promote, educate coaches, officials, administrators; managers’ programme for five courses per year; and the FINA Continental Support Programme with an annual budget of $570.000, to offer support to carry out promotional activities.
Yiannis Giannouris spoke of the strategic objectives to develop water polo globally and gender equality.
He said 66 men’s teams and 47 women’s were competing at world level. He spoke of conducting a coaches’ clinic in India and presented all the figures. He then showed Egypt and the increased opportunities there.
He displayed his thoughts on what was needed to expand the sport around the world. Ratko Rudic, four-time Olympic champion coach, said “competition is the heart of the system”.
He said there was a need to review the current FINA competition system at all levels. He said more national federations needed to be motivated to enter continental qualification. Development programmes need to be introduced to gain more youth engagements. He agreed with “95%” of the water polo rules proposals. He said the rules need refreshing, respecting traditions, but also to explore innovative ideas. He promoted the need to produce a video rule book based on video material. There was also a need for a less static and more dynamic game.
Bartolo Consolo, FINA Honorary Member, spoke on grassroots development. He said only 17 countries compete in Olympics, 10 from Europe. He gave other statistics with only 35 countries competing at junior world championships. His strategies included grassroots development at club and school level and to assist national federations to development instructors to teach “swim and play with the ball”: to promote and disseminate good practices that encourage initiatives for national federations and clubs to organise grassroots events.
The “swim and play with the ball programme” is to be confirmed by FINA. It is for children 7-11 to “know and practise water polo”.
He also said the HaBaWaBa project (Happy Baby Happy Ball” project, which included 185 teams and 4800 participants.
The day’s closing sessions concentrated on the round-table discussion and thoughts from continents and athletes about the new rule proposals.

Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee Member NZL)
The FINA World Water Polo Conference closed with more than 200 delegates from 105 nations hearing the new direction of the sport and the possibility that rule changes will help drive the process.
FINA President Dr Julio Maglione praised the process with so many of the FINA nations gathered in Budapest.
At the closing press conference he said:
“This gathering was fundamental to discuss the future of Water Polo!
“This conviction was a reality here in Budapest! The protagonists of our beloved sport – athletes, coaches and referees -- but also those in charge of promoting, marketing and elevating the level of water polo, got together and came to a conclusion: We need to change.
“And more important: we must change now!
“I take this opportunity to thank the TWPC and all experts for the extraordinary work behind this organisation. And the main outcome of their effort is that the water polo family is definitively walking in the same direction.
“In the direction of progress, in the direction of a more dynamic and appealing game, in the direction of the younger generations, in the direction of what sponsors and partners are looking for, in the direction of what spectators, TV and digital users want to see and enjoy,” Dr Maglione said.
“Thanks to a courageous exercise of democracy and transparency, everything was discussed openly -- rules, development, branding, event organisation, sport presentation, Olympic challenges, image and communication, technology and innovation and the game’s attractiveness.
“The outcome of these discussions is that the dream of the water polo community may be a reality soon; to transform the game into an even more attractive experience, at all levels.
“We all agree that water polo has all the ingredients to be a great success; it is played in the water, has good-looking athletes, and generates passion and emotion.
“I believe we now have all the tools to modernise the game. To improve it. To take it to another level. To adapt it to the 21st century.
“Let’s do it, without any delays. Water polo has a rich 150-year history. But its future starts now. Today. Tomorrow, when we all return home,” he said.
Session 1
New activities in water polo
The day started with a presentation from a trio of Technical Water Polo Committee members – honorary secretary Wim Keman, Ken Kuroda and Andy Hoepelman.
Keman introduced the referee pathway and the establishment of a two-day referee development school, followed by an examination.
The FINA e-learning platform will be established for entry level officials and mandatory for all referees before being allowed to participate in the certification school. It will all be in English and everyone must have a basic level of the language. This is because technology being used by referees poolside.
The certification qualification will last for four years. Re-certification includes two-day technical workshops before major FINA competitions.
The e-learning platform is set for a December 2018 launch.
Code of conduct
The objectives include developing a uniform standard of behaviour and awareness of responsibilities. Also, neutrality and fairness, maintaining a high level of knowledge and professionalism are major factors.
Respect, relations with colleagues, players and coaches and have exemplary behaviour on and off the field.
A dress code must be adhered to and be aware of the danger of social media, especially during competitions.
Kuroda produced the FINA competition update. It has been suggested that the World Championship competition include more than the 16 teams currently for men and women, possibly 20-24 teams with the schedule extended to nine days and preliminary matches played in different cities.
Up to 10 matches could be played in a day, up from the eight currently.
The World Cups, being staged this years, may have lost their lustre, but they do include qualification for World Championships.
The Development Trophy for men might need to be rebranded to the FINA Challengers’ Cup with the winner qualifying for the World Championships. This would be for countries ranked 25th and below.
The vision for the sport includes accessibility for youth, fans, sponsors and hosts.
Objectives include creating more exciting events, making the game more interesting, easier to play, rebranding, making tournaments easy to watch and setting a four-year plan for major events. There are challenges, so there are proposals to change competition formats to make it more attractive to fans. There is a move to establish a 16 and under world championship to be held in different cities and staged biennially (every two years).
He closed with an excellent quote:
“If Plan A does not work, we still have 25 more characters in the alphabet.”
Hoepelman talked about fresh ideas and competitions in line with the International Olympic Committee’s quest for sports to establish fan-based events over competition based.
Water Polo By The Sea, established in Sydney, Australia by four-time Olympian Thomas Whalan, was showcased with the ideas of fantastic images from iconic locations.
Elite sport and beach culture are the keys, making it an all-day family fun. Beach water polo is the key to promoting the sport in smaller fields of play and focusing on fun with pre- and after-match entertainment.
“It is an opportunity to promote water polo worldwide.”
The Association of National Olympic Committees will stage the first Beach Games in San Diego next year with water polo a potential inclusion in the future.
Mixed water polo is also a suggestion that could be developed in line with other FINA disciplines.
Beach water polo rules are available on the FINA website, but Hoepelman said that competitions should not be restricted by rules.
Legendary coach Ratko Rudic commented that this was “jet-set water polo”.
He said that competition was the heart of our community. He lauded the 16 and under world championship and the Development Trophy concept.
Italian men’s coach Alessandro Campagna suggested that FINA organise the first beach water polo world championships.
The presentations sparked many comments about development, promotion and even one about women’s and men’s competitions being compressed to consecutive days for cost saving and promotion considerations. Going to nine days would mean competitions could be held over 17 days, far too long.
FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu even suggested that we go to 3 on 3 water polo much like basketball, which has been included to the 2020 Olympic Games.
Session 2
Game improvement solutions
Mark Koganov, FINA Technical Water Polo Committee Vice Chairman, addressed the implementation of the new rule suggestions.
The new rule book will be published before the 2019 World Championships, alongside a video rule book, better explaining the rules. He talked of the sharing of information with all national federations, testing of the proposals with referees involved.
Sufficient testing within a limited timeframe, analysis of the testing, clear protocols for data collection and the fact that they should have global support were vital stages of the process.
Tested rules will then go to the TWPC for analysis and eventually to a FINA Technical Congress later in the year.
The world’s leading referees will be briefed, trained and utilised in the testing process to maintain consistency.
The suggestion is that the easy adjustments of the 21 suggested rule adjustments be tested first in, perhaps, 100 matches.
Bigger-impact rule changes would need between 300-400 matches around the globe within national federation championships.
Testing will finish in October and the final proposals from the TWPC will be in late October in time for the congress in November 2018.
Major FINA events where testing will occur are the boys’ and girls’ youth world championships, followed by the two World Cups.
Conference summary Moderator Dale Neuburger, FINA Vice President, wrapped up the outcomes of the three-day event.
“What we know is that we have a great sport: the oldest Olympic team sport. We have an amazing game. We also know we have to step forward. We have to attract new audiences and those who have been our audiences for many years.”
Social media and our delivery, expanding the reach to youth audiences, are key threads in the conversation.
“We have to operate in a similar way to the best leagues in the world. The world expects us to entertain them. They have to come away saying ‘that was a great experience’.”
Neuburger urged delegates not to lose momentum.
“Move forward and make it great.”
The round-table discussions on Friday was a great chance for nations to have their say, firstly on the rule proposals and secondly development.
Technology and innovation was to the forefront with a much higher expectation today, especially from the youth.
“They want to be involved, part of the action.” The broad structure of events on the international level was a prominent discussion both in the continents and world levels. Branding and improving our image is paramount.
“We constantly have to turn the tables to look at the way others see us and make adjustments accordingly.”
“We have to be a leader in the number and quality and interactions relating to our major competitions,” when he spoke about social media. Marketing is another key element while development must be embraced with more people playing the game.
“Now it’s time to flick the switch and ignite the fire,” Neuburger said.
Keynote speaker Adam Krikorian, USA women’s coach, winner of 15 gold medals “We have a chance to challenge ourselves with new levels of performance. The choice is very clear.
“We must move forward with a sense of urgency, but knowing that change does not happen overnight.
“This is clearly our moment and we must embrace it. Nothing we have discussed here should be surprising. We all have the best interests of our sport in our hearts. The past few days have given everyone momentum, he said.
“It is so important that we must push that momentum forward.”
He had a warning that development of the new rules needed to be transparent.
“There is nothing sexy about that.”
Krikorian said the rules “should be the least of our worries”.
Some of the challenges include improvements to FINA and infrastructure to promote growth.
“We have to create our own narrative. We have the power to do this.”
Because of the four-year schedule is a “scary” thing for organisers. He said we need to listen to our youth and countries to move forward.
“We must open our hearts and continue forward with maturity and integrity. Put your egos aside and leave them at home.”
He called for transparency with one clear story.
“Now is our time, now is our moment. We must work together that our sport in the next 100 years is the best,” Krikorian said.
Cornel Marculescu, FINA Executive Director He spoke of the brand – FINA.
“What is our main product? The World Championships, the FINA World Championships.”
FINA was unique with so many disciplines and FINA needs to have a good product to go to the market and sell.
“Now I hear the presentation of the new rules. We have to have the courage and the challenge to do it immediately. We need to implement these in the world championships in Gwanju next year.
“We have to take this challenge, otherwise it is going to be very difficult.
“We need to take the courage and take the challenge .. and to be ready to show to the world what we have done here is a step forward for our sport.”

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