Budapest gave us one of the most spectacular water polo ambients so far. The company behind the special effects on site did a great job, fans were entertained and, most importantly, involved. In the last few days, we witnessed fantastic games, but 14 days also contained a lot of “poolshit”. In this blog, I will focus on two of them.
#1 POOLSHIT – VAR
I will just show you one 10-second clip which perfectly sums up all the problems water polo is facing right now. I was in doubt if I should even post this because I don’t want other sports to laugh at us. But since they don’t want to communicate, publicly displaying the problem is the only path. Please note that I think this video is a great embarrassment for water polo. For the context, it is not important which game this was, or who the referees were. The most important thing are the two guys looking at the screen.
Here are all the problems from this sad scene:
1. VAR review
This is not VAR, this should be called goal-line technology. And in football, those goal/no goal situations are decided by technology and not humans. So, they are watching a recording from a goal-line camera to determine the situation. This is a technology we easily could have had in the 90’s.
2. Gianni Lonzi and Marco Birri watching the recording
So, for each game, there are two people responsible as VAR referees. You can find their names in the game reports. Here you can see the Head of Technical Committee Gianni Lonzi and Operations Manager Marco Birri checking if something is a goal or not. Their names are nowhere to be found in the game reports from Budapest. Btw, they don’t put the recording on the big screen at the pool, because I quote, “the technology doesn’t support that”. So nobody watching the game can even see whether the ball crossed the goal line or not, except Gianni Lonzi, Marco Birri and the referee.
Even though this decision should be made by the main referee who requested the help in the decisions or even better, a “VAR referee” like it is practice in the FINA competitions, here we can see that Gianni decided that this isn’t a goal. Again, it doesn’t matter if the decision is right or wrong, IT IS NOT UP TO HIM TO DECIDE.
Just imagine the scandal if the NBA commissioner or Gianni Infantino did something similar in their competitions…
4. The screen
Maybe the best way to point out how LEN adopts new technologies is the way Lonzi “hides” the screen. In case you missed it, check the video again. In some other circumstances, this might be funny, because it looks like an “OK Boomer” meme, but from the water polo perspective, this is the tragic metaphor for all of us.
#2 POOLSHIT – LEN PROFESSIONALISM
As many of you know, after I published my first NO POOLSHIT blog, the Total Waterpolo accreditations were revoked without any explanation. Obviously I hit some nerves with my post, but banning a media outlet WITHOUT ANY EXPLANATION is bad practice for a reason – it makes you look like you are hiding something. That is the first lesson any PR school in the world will teach you.
During the Euro 2020, Total Waterpolo and one journalist from Malta were the only media representatives who attended every single game. For many games (especially during the first week), there were approx 10-20 people in the audience and the press center was empty, but we were there. Every day for a minimum of 12 hours we were writing, taking photos, reporting. We even launched a live statistics app so everyone could see results with the richest stats in real-time.
In a normal world, that would be every event organizer’s dream. Media trying to make the championship look good with digital innovations and constant reporting? But LEN doesn’t care about that.
All we got from LEN during the Euro 2020 was free water, false information or no information at all (like when we asked if there were any sanctions for the referees from the France-Georgia and Germany-Serbia games). And the suspension of course 🙂
Maybe it is not fair from my side to address everything as LEN’s fault. As an organization, they have existed for almost a hundred years and for sure they did some great things for aquatic sports in Europe. I am sure that there are many great people working at LEN. But unfortunately, they allowed certain ignorant individuals to turn water polo as a competitive sport into a disaster.
Sadly, if no one is calling them out publicly on their #poolshit, institutions get arrogant. They think they have the power. It is an illusion, and every illusion sooner or later breaks down. My fear is that it will take the whole sport with it. That’s why I criticize it.
In hindsight, I’m glad we got banned. It’s proof I needed to see – that some executives at LEN think that water polo belongs to them. I believe it is our job to raise awareness about these issues and bring them back to Earth. Every single one of us, of you – we all have the right as well as he responsibility to raise our voice and criticize when necessary.
I have one last thing to say: no water polo institution or federation, LEN or otherwise, can afford to treat the community rude right now. Water polo is losing popularity every year.
That is what makes their decision about Total Waterpolo so bad. They banned one of the few who are actually trying to make a difference. They alienated enthusiasts at a time when there are not many of us left. They emptied media seats at a time when the stands are already empty.
If water polo continues on this path, soon there will be ten people at the stands even during the finals. We have decided to go down with the ship, so those ten people will probably be us, writing the eulogy.
But before that, and this is a promise – we will do everything in our power to stop it from happening. Ban or no ban. LEN or no LEN.
Total Waterpolo CEO and Co-founder