REUTERS: The professional International Swimming League (ISL) has promised to honour financial obligations and improve processes as some unpaid suppliers threaten legal action.
The series, which ends its second season with finals in Budapest this weekend featuring some of the world's top swimmers, acknowledged the commercial difficulties in a statement.
"Our head-down approach to deliver Season 2020 may have caused friction with some suppliers but we will honour all obligations, which are less than 5per cent of last year’s overall expenditure," it said.
"Going forward, and before planning starts for Season Three, we will need to close all outstanding issues from the past.
"We will adjust our internal organisation and processes to improve our operational discipline to continue being a reliable partner to all our suppliers."
London-based content agency LiveWire Sport (www.livewiresport.com) said in a statement on Friday it had instructed lawyers to begin legal proceedings against ISL over unpaid debts from 2019.
"We have been waiting over 10 months now for full payment for the services provided to ISL for Season One. This is despite ISL acknowledging the debt and saying they intend to pay the outstanding amount," it added.
Jean-Francois Salessy, general manager of the Energy Standard team and agent for French swimmer Florent Manaudou, resigned last week with an open letter to the ISL's wealthy Ukrainian founder Konstantin Grigorishin.
"ISL is a boat without governance but with only one shareholder and generals without powers," he wrote in the letter sent to media.
"I no longer wish to be part of your fake movie."
The ISL said all sports rights holders had faced significant challenges this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting schedules.
Pools had been closed and meets cancelled and the ISL had taken on "a huge additional financial commitment" in 2020 to support its athletes in the run up to next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"We had hoped for meaningful revenues to come in but alongside the impact of the pandemic our commercial operations have also failed significantly with most projections not materialising," it said.
"The way we approach the market will need to be different going forward."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Potter)