Are Draws by FINA a Smoke and Mirrors Show?

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet
09/15/11

How the devil did the USA World Men’s Junior Team get in the same Group as Serbia’s and Spain’s Junior Teams? The Serbian and Spanish Teams fished 1st and 2nd in the Junior World Men’s Championship and the USA finished 9th. If there had been only Serbia or Spain in that group then the USA would have ended up 2nd rather than 3rd in their group and that would have meant they played France instead of Australia. It was probably the difference in whether the US Junior Team would have finish in the top eight teams or not. This is not the first example of teams being placed in certain groups - groups that would help a team’s chances of advancing or groups that would hurt a team’s chances advancing.

Is this another case of wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which hand fills up the fastest? No, I don’t think that is the case here. It is a case of FINA having way too much control over the placing of teams in a world championship group. Here is how a draw works for a team in the Junior World Championship (my comments on the rules are printed in red):

Quick Draw SecretsDraw for twenty (20) teams:

(a) Group Draw:

For the Preliminary Round, all qualifying teams will be drawn into four (4) groups; A, B, C or D.

First Line, the highest ranking team from the preceding World Junior Championships, the first, second and third qualified teams from Europe will be drawn one into A, one into B, one into C, and one into D. (The highest ranking from the preceding World Junior Championship is data that is two years old. Can you imagine a business or country making a major decision based on two year old data or even one year old data? Note it doesn’t tell which ranked team goes into which of the groups; A, B. C. or D)

Second Line, the fourth, fifth and sixth qualified teams from Europe and the first qualified team from the Americas will be drawn one into A, one into B, one into C, and one into D. (Note it doesn’t tell which ranked team goes into which of the groups; A, B. C. or D)

Third Line, the first second and third qualified teams from the Americas the first qualified team from Asia will be drawn one into A, one into B, one into C, and one into D. (Note it doesn’t tell which ranked team goes into which of the groups; A, B. C. or D)

Quick DrawFourth Line, the Host Country, the fourth qualified team from the Americas, the first qualified team from Africa and the second qualified team from Oceania will be drawn one into A, one into B, one into C, and one into D. (Note it doesn’t tell which ranked team goes into which of the groups; A, B. C. or D)

Fifth Line, the fifth qualified team from the Americas, the second and third qualified teams from Asia and the second qualified team from Africa will be drawn one into A, one into B, one into C, and one into D. (Note it doesn’t tell which ranked team goes into which of the groups; A, B. C. or D)

(b) Team Draw:

After being divided into Groups A, B, C, or D, the teams will then be drawn with each team in each group receiving a separate number from one (1) to five (5). (This is tantamount to shuffling the draws so no one else can readily know how the draws were made.)

How many ways does this allow FINA to draw the teams in the “First line”? Let’s see, there are four ways teams can be placed in one Group, three ways teams can be placed in the next Group, two ways teams can be placed in the next Group, and one way teams can be placed in the last Group. Thus 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 is 24 ways FINA can draw the teams in the “First line”. This is true of “Lines Two, Three, Four, and Five.

Now suppose the teams in the first line are ranked T1, T2, T3,and T4. The first ranked team, T1, does not have to go into in Group A because the rules say it can go into Group A, Group B or Group C or Group D. A strategic placing of the teams or even a chance placing can produce something similar to the draws in Group D of this year’s Junior World Championship.

Why would FINA want to do drawings this way? In my last article I said that for the USAWP “Money makes their world go round”. For FINA it is “Power which makes their world go round”. Because with the draws as they are defined today it gives FINA the pretense of real power which they can use to cause others in to doing what they want them to do.

It appears as if transparency is a dirty word in FINA circles. FINA would rather have TWPC members whisper the rule interpretations in the referee’s ear at world tournaments than publish the rule interpretations. Trickle down interpretations of the rules just don’t work, especially, when we are trying to grow the sport.  FINA would rather have loose interpretations of draws so that the people who make the draws have a great deal of lead way. If FINA is willing to embrace transparency then I have a suggestion on how teams could be drawn.

My suggestion also involves keeping a ranking of the teams who are to play in a world tournament. Most world sports that I know already keep a ranking of the teams in that sport. My example has to do with the Junior World Championships.

New Quick DrawDraw for twenty (20) teams:

(a) Group Draw:

For the Preliminary Round, all qualifying teams will be drawn into four (4) groups; A, B, C or D.

First Line, teams ranked first through fourth in the world junior rankings will be placed in the groups as follows: the first ranked team into A, the second ranked into B, the third ranked team into C, and the fourth team into D.  

Second Line, teams ranked fifth through eight in the world junior rankings will be placed in the groups as follows: the eight ranked team into A, the seventh ranked into B, the sixth ranked team into C, and the fifth team into D.   

Third Line, teams ranked ninth through twelfth in the world junior rankings will be placed in the groups as follows: the ninth ranked team into A, the tenth ranked into B, the eleventh ranked team into C, and the twelfth team into D.   

Fourth Line, teams ranked thirteenth through sixteenth in the world junior rankings will be placed in the groups as follows: the sixteenth ranked team into A, the fifteenth ranked into B, the fourteenth ranked team into C, and the thirteenth ranked team into D. 

Fifth Line, teams ranked seventeenth through twentieth in the world junior rankings will be placed in the groups as follows: the seventeenth ranked team into A, the eighteenth ranked into B, the nineteenth ranked team into C, and the twentieth team into D.    

(b) Team Draw:

After being divided into Groups A, B, C, or D, the teams will then be drawn with each team in each group receiving a separate number from one (1) to five (5).  The numbers (1) through (5) will reflect the teams ranking. For example in Group A: T1 will be 1, T8 will be 2, T9 will be 3, T16 will be 4 and T17 will be 5.

This is what the groupings would look like:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
T1 T2 T3 T4
T8 T7 T6 T5
T9 T10 T11 T12
T16 T15 T14 T13
T17 T18 T19 T20

The suggested new method of making draws is not perfect because it is based on a ranking in which all teams in the ranking do not play each other. But in the new way of drawing teams, what you see above is what you get all the time and every time. Under the current rules for a draw you can get this grouping and about 119 other groupings as well. Some of the draws can be used to harm a team’s chances for advancing and some can be used to help a team’s chances of advancing. Even if the draws are not done on purpose to help or hurt a team such unfair grouping can still happen by chance because of the way FINA defines the draw. Don’t you think it time that FINA stops giving us a smoke and mirrors show so they can do what they darn please. Business as usual and the continuation of the “old boys club” have got to stop if we want water polo to survive after the 2012 Olympics.

SuffragettesAnother example that highlights how antiquated FINA has become is in the makeup of the TWPC. The TWPC is in charge of all rules and their interpretations that are used in the Olympics and in all World Championships. This incudes not just the men’s Olympics and men’s World Championships but the women’s Olympics and women’s World Championships as well. It has been estimated that about half the people in the world who are playing water polo are women. Also members of the TWPC are in charge of the group and team draws.

Of the 12 people on the TWPC (members on the Event Sub-Committee and Bureau Liaison were not included) how many do you think are women? Any reasonable person might guess 6 since half of the number of players playing water polo are women. Maybe a guess of 4 because the women haven’t been playing as long as the men. If the men’s and women’s rules were drastically different you might be able to justify 4 but they are not drastically different. Is there at least 1 token woman on the committee? There is zero, none, nada women on the TWPC. If the members on the Event Sub-Committee and Bureau are truly a part of the TWPC then the women should have 8 members on the TWPC. Notice I didn’t say “could” but I said “should”. Shame on you FINA! Are we going to have to bring back the suffragettes for women to get a vote on the TWPC?

We in the water polo community are worried about the survival of water polo and it appears FINA is more worried about how they can keep their dictatorial control over the sport of water polo. What about the swim suit scandal - a circuitous tale for another time and another article, prehaps? Doesn't FINA understand that there is not going to be any water polo for them to control if they don’t change their ways of doing business. What we need right now is a giant injection of “TRANSPARENCY” into the way referees are taught the interpretation of the rules, the way teams are drawn in world championships, and the way members are appointed to the TWPC. Let us hope and pray that it is not too late to save water polo and let us hope and pray that the old adage, “Old dogs cannot be taught new ticks”, is transparently not true.

Good Ol' Boys
Good Ol' Boys Texas Style