ISL to stage majority of season two in Budapest
The International Swimming League, the new club-based professional series, has announced its second season will be predominantly based in Budapest, Hungary, with a potential Tokyo setting for the league final.
During the ISL debut season last year, eight teams competed in six qualifying events across Europe and the United States before the Grand Final, which took place in Las Vegas in December.
However, at a virtual press conference launching the second season yesterday, the ISL said the Hungarian capital will stage 10 qualifying races taking place between 16 October and 15 November and two semi-finals from 19 to 22 November.
The location of the Grand Final, which will take place in the last week of December, has yet to be decided, although Hubert Montcoudiol, head of commercial operations at ISL, said the league is in close discussions with Tokyo, Japan to potentially host the event.
All events will be held behind closed doors to reduce the potential risks of coronavirus infections.
The ISL will gain two new clubs this season in Toronto Titans and Tokyo Frog Kings, bringing the total teams to 10, with all athletes set to be paid a minimum of £11,500 ($15,000) for taking part in the event.
The ISL said the 10 teams comprising 320 athletes will form training ‘bubbles’ in Budapest, with athletes expected to have two coronavirus tests before departing from their country of origin. They will then be tested upon arrival in Hungary and again within 48 hours.
Addressing the fact that Hungary has closed its borders starting this month, Montcoudiol said while the venue has been booked, the ISL does not have special arrangements with the government, meaning the plans to stage the event in Budapest could be changed.
He said the league plans to strike deals with top broadcasters around the world with the meets to be broadcast live in more than 80 countries.
Last year, Eurosport showed the ISL across Europe and Asia-Pacific, excluding Australia, as part of a two-season deal that also includes the Discovery-owned broadcaster having exclusive sub-licencing rights worldwide (except in USA and Australia).
ESPN, the US broadcaster, CBC, the public service broadcaster in Canada, and Seven, the commercial network in Australia also held rights last year, while UK public broadcaster the BBC showed the London meet.
However, no announcements have been made as to which broadcasters have signed up to the new season.
Arnaud Simon, founder of Paris-based media rights agency In&OutStories, which distributes the rights to the league, told Sportcal all broadcast deals are currently being negotiated, even the Eurosport deal, which was a one-season deal, with a one-year extension clause.
He said: “ISL wanted a fresh restart [with its broadcast deals] and it’s now a new era as a proven property.”