Fourth Estate Or Miskimmin Spin Agent?

December 15th, 2014

By David

For the second weekend in succession the Herald on Sunday has published a “feel-good” public relations hand-out on behalf of Sport New Zealand. Both the PR communiqués were written by Michael Burgess, a football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. Last week’s story contained so many factual errors that I wrote the Swimwatch story “Figures Can’t Lie But Liars Can Figure”. I also forwarded a copy to Michael Burgess hoping it would alert him to the dangers of accepting the spin, verging on lies, that originate from Sport New Zealand.

Clearly he did not read my story properly or did not understand its message. This is his email reply.

Hi David, Thanks for your email – not sure if you meant to send it to me but you make some interesting points. The stats are impressive from 1984-1996… And swimming has to be under pressure, though Boyle is keeping them afloat. Regards Michael

Well the story did go to the right place but its point was clearly lost. This week Michael Burgess has written, and the Herald on Sunday has published, a second round of Sport New Zealand PR spin. The new Burgess story begins with the line “if imitation is indeed the best form of flattery”. No, the best form of flattery is conning a national newspaper into publishing your corporate PR spin without checking the facts or investigating the context. For the Herald on Sunday to fail this most basic duty of good journalism twice in two weeks, and after being warned, is professionally careless.

But let’s look more closely at their second story titled “What are we doing right?”

Sport New Zealand spin doctor, Alex Baumann, convinced the Herald on Sunday that, “something special is brewing here and other countries want to know the recipe. Until 2012, we were under the radar to a degree,” HPSNZ chief executive Alex Baumann said. “We were known for great achievements but London [13 medals, including six golds] took things to a new level.”

But did it? New Zealand has won thirteen medals before at an Olympic Games. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul New Zealand won thirteen medals in five sports – sailing, canoeing, equestrian, rowing, and swimming. In London New Zealand also won thirteen medals; this time in six sports – rowing, sailing, athletics, canoeing, cycling and equestrian. And so Baumann’s spin that, “London” (with 13 medals) “took things to a new level” simply isn’t true. So why, without analysis or research, did the Herald on Sunday publish Sport New Zealand’s propaganda? A week ago we warned them – if the information comes from Sport New Zealand check it before you put it in your newspaper.

But what about the gold medal tally. Baumann is reported as saying that the six gold medals in London also “took things to a new level”. And that’s really, really not true. In the 1984 Olympic Games New Zealand won eight gold medals in four sports – canoeing, equestrian, sailing and rowing. Baumann’s “new level” in London was in fact six gold medals; two less than in 1984. The London gold medals were won in five sports – rowing, athletics, sailing, canoeing and cycling. And so, six gold medals is not a “new level”. It is 25% less than New Zealand won in 1984, before there was a Sport New Zealand or a Peter Miskimmin handing out state donations. So why, without analysis or research, did the Herald on Sunday publish Sport New Zealand’s propaganda? A week ago we warned them – if the information comes from Sport New Zealand check it before you put it in your newspaper.

Sport New Zealand and Baumann are desperate to sell the argument that Olympic sport in New Zealand is doing better than ever as a result of the government’s millions; that New Zealand’s brand of sporting socialism works best. It will be a hard sell. Why? Because it’s not true.

The sport that has followed the centralised, “focussed” policy, promoted by Baumann, longest is swimming. And just look at the resulting shambles. SwimVortex, one of the world’s most respected swimming websites, reported Lauren Boyle’s world record being broken by Mireia Belmonte with the following comment, “The standard had stood at 15:22.68 to part-time training partner this season past, New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, currently training in Australia while her country attempts to find a solution to a crisis of management.”

Over the last 18 months, HPSNZ may have “hosted delegations from seven countries, including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.” That says nothing about the conclusions the delegates reached as a result of their visits. Perhaps they too detected a “crisis of management.” I bet the Dutch delegation was never taken anywhere near the government’s Millennium swim school. Or at least I hope it wasn’t.

What an embarrassment. On one hand we have New Zealand – one of the worst national swim schools in the world; a swimming program that can’t hold on to a decent swimmer no matter how much the state pays; a program as unmanned and abandoned as the Marie Celeste. Baumann would need to bus in a rent-a-crowd to sell the New Zealand swimming program. Last week at the Doha World Championships our best swimmers decided they weren’t fit enough to attend and the two that did, failed to make a final.

And on the other hand a delegation from Holland. Their swim team won two gold, one silver and one bronze at the London Games, two gold in Beijing, two gold, three silver and two bronze in Athens and five gold, one silver and two bronze in Sydney. In Doha the Dutch woman’s team won twelve medals, five of which were gold, and set three world records.

Given those results can you imagine the sheer blind arrogant stupidity of Baumann’s next comment?

“But how open can New Zealand afford to be? Some countries are notorious for acquiring information and then overtaking their rivals so New Zealand needs to be cautious. “We have to be careful what we give away,” Baumann said. “Anything on the innovation side is not something we would share because that is a competitive advantage for us. We believe in sharing information but it has to be a win-win situation.”

I’m sure the delegation from Holland returned to Amsterdam trembling with fear that New Zealand was about to produce a swim team capable of upsetting Veldhuis, Kromowidjojo and Heemskerk. Clearly the whole idea is ridiculous. So why, without analysis or research, did the Herald on Sunday publish Sport New Zealand’s propaganda? A week ago we warned them – if the information comes from Sport New Zealand check it before you put it in your newspaper.

 

Swimwatch Did Warn You…

December 13th, 2014

By David

Today Sport New Zealand announced the amount of money they will give the Swimming New Zealand high performance program. The Millennium swim school is going to cost us all $1.4 million per year for two years. Someone called Mike Govern from High Performance Sport New Zealand said, “I think Swimming New Zealand would be the first to agree that their performances through 2014 weren’t at the level that we were collectively hoping for. They have got a reduction.”

The basic premise of that comment is rubbish. Swimming New Zealand has never acknowledged any corporate fault for the embarrassment of 2014. Instead Villanueva has been quick to blame everyone wearing a pair of togs for the failings of his plan. Swimwatch ran a story on that very subject. There is no evidence that Layton, Renford or Villanueva have learned anything from the fiasco of 2014. As has always been the case with Swimming New Zealand – it’s all about jam tomorrow. Just keep the funds coming and in four years or eight years we will have a bucket full of gold medals. Renford is already softening us up. This is what he said today, “An important aspect of this for us is that it will also allow us to integrate our key 2020 Olympic prospects into the process. Swimmers aiming for medals in Tokyo need to be actively introduced to the Olympic program for 2016 as it takes two Olympic cycles to develop an Olympic athlete.”

He makes me sick. There is no evidence to support the view that, “it takes two Olympic cycles to develop an Olympic athlete.” It is certainly true that many Olympic Gold Medals are won by swimmers in their second or even third Olympic Games. However first time gold medalists are not as uncommon as Renford would have us believe. For example, in London ten Olympic Gold medals were won by swimmers at their first Olympic Games. Everything Swimming New Zealand says needs to be checked. Renford’s argument has more to do with securing our money for another four years than with the reality of life in a swimming pool.

Mike Govern then announced severely, “They have got a reduction.” The clear implication of this is that Sport New Zealand is a tough guardian of the public purse. Sports are expected to perform or their funding will vanish. In the case of swimming that’s just not true. Miskimmin and Baumann are personally invested in the future of swimming – up to their eye balls, they are committed. Swimming New Zealand is locked into Miskimmin’s centralist policy. Swimming New Zealand has a Miskimmin Board and a Miskimmin management team. If Swimming New Zealand fails Miskimmin and Baumann fail. And they will pay whatever it takes to avoid that happening.

So what does Miskimmin do? True to his political breeding, and to give the right impression, he skims off a few punishment dollars. But the loss of $k100 is window dressing. Swimming has secured a new two years funding package that guarantees the disaster of swimming’s last ten years will roll on uninterrupted. $1.4 million each year for the next two years is swimming’s reward for being a loyal Miskimmin subject. As a punishment the reduced funding provided to swimming is nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

A grant of $1.4m means poor performance and bad behavior has been rewarded. Renford acknowledged that when he was reported as saying, “We have been on a year-to-year basis currently, so to have surety of funding through to the 2016 Rio Olympics is important for us.” He’s right. By funding swimming for two years, Miskimmin’s donation to swimming has actually improved. The decision about funding swimming has nothing to do with performance. If it did swimming would be paying us. The truth is that swimming has been rewarded for its obedience. Funding swimming in New Zealand is about applying and supporting Miskimmin’s personal agenda. Performance is not the issue. Obey and be rewarded is the lesson.

Baumann confirmed this truth when he spoke about the sport of triathlon, “Triathlon,” he said, “is the right structure and is moving in the right direction, they have centralised and gone from a two to eight-year plan. They have a good high performance director and coaches in place. Even though they didn’t reach all their key performance indicators, there is still potential. They just need to get more athletes in their system.”

So there you have it – right from the horse’s mouth. Comply with Miskimmin’s structure, approve his authoritarian constitution, centralize (socialize) the means of production distribution and exchange, appoint bureaucrats that have Miskimmin’s blessing and even if you bomb at Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacific Games and World Championships; even if your athletes couldn’t beat an egg, money will not be a problem.

Oh, and don’t you just love Baumann’s last sentence – “They just need to get more athletes in their system.” Is that the same as saying that the best way to ensure success is to throw “more athletes” into the grinder? One of them is bound to survive. In American swimming this coaching philosophy is called, “Eggs against the wall coaching”. Throw enough eggs at a wall and one will hit the wall and fall to the ground without breaking. That egg is your Olympic champion. Beware New Zealand parents. It could be that the guy in charge of swimming’s Millennium swim school sees your child as just another egg.

Perhaps we should leave the last words on this sorry subject to Sport New Zealand’s talkative swimming expert, Mike Govern. “He said he believed the true potential of swimming had not been “fully realized in New Zealand”. There’s some challenges in the sport but we are working closely and openly with Swimming New Zealand to assist them in resolving those challenges. We are going to be monitoring their progress through the course of 2015.”

I wonder what he means by “some challenges in the sport”. Is that Lauren Boyle and Matthew Stanley disappearing to Australia? Is that a shocking set of annual accounts? Is that a Millennium swim school with no swimmers? Just what are these “challenges”?

Govern promises the challenges are being dealt with openly. Open to who I wonder? Certainly not “open” to the membership of Swimming New Zealand. There is no chance of “open” anything while the Miskimmin gang is in charge. Govern’s comment is meaningless flannel. Just as meaningless as the thought that Swimming New Zealand has had a funding cut.

 

Figures Can’t Lie But Liars Can Figure

December 9th, 2014

By David

The Sunday Herald this week reported on a scheme hatched up by Sport New Zealand (SNZ) to socialise private funding of New Zealand sport. With politburo efficiency SNZ already control the government’s investment in New Zealand sport. And now Miskimmin wants to get his sticky fingers on funds generated by a free enterprise economy. Wouldn’t it be ironic to see millions of dollars earned in a free enterprise economy given to the country’s leading Leninist autocrat to pursue his centralized, socialist dogma. How New Zealand’s centre right National government can bear the paradox of all that is beyond belief.

Miskimmin’s latest scheme for New Zealand sport is explained as follows:

“Sir Michael Fay and the first America’s Cup ventures and Sir Colin Giltrap with motorsport and sailing to Sir Owen Glenn in hockey and Sir David Levene supporting Lydia Ko – but the structured, unified approach certainly is” new.

I can only hope that Sir Michael Fay, Sir Colin Giltrap, Sir Owen Glenn and Sir David Levene recognize the phrase, “structured, unified approach” for the socialist creed that it most certainly is. These men earned their money by investing in a free enterprise economy. They have supported sport in the same way. I would think they are too smart to be sucked into a SNZ soviet style sporting scam.

But what I really find obscene is the dishonesty of the SNZ argument used to promote their cause. Here is a long extract from the Sunday Herald report.

“A joint venture between the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Sport New Zealand will target private investment from some of the most successful and wealthy individuals in this country and around the world to help fund high-performance sport

“There are plenty of people who want to do big things for New Zealand.” says Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin. “In sport, we can say we are world-leading.

It’s well recognised that New Zealand’s performances – and incremental improvement – over the past 12 years at Olympic level have been staggering. From four in Sydney in 2000 to 13 in London two years ago, total medals have increased more than 300 per cent. That amount also includes a 600 per cent increase in gold medals over the same period.

“People around the world are noticing,” says Miskimmin. “Especially with the colour of our medals and our depth of sports. Ours were spread across six sports.”

The improvement has come off the back of a sharp increase in government funding of sport, especially at elite level. In 2002, direct investment in the high-performance programmes for the six targeted sports was $2.3 million. By 2013, that figure had increased to $23.1 million.

“The system is working extremely well,” says Miskimmin. “We do an incredible job for the amount of money that comes in. There’s no debate about that and we have one of the most efficient high-performance systems in the world.”

So what do you make of all that. I am sure that Miskimmin wants you to believe that as a direct result of the government’s money increasing from $2.3 million to $23.1 million the medals, won by New Zealand athletes between Sydney in 2000 and London in 2012, have increased by 300 per cent and the number of gold medals has increased by 600 per cent – more money to Miskimmin equals more medals; from 4 in Sydney to 13 in London, simple really.

But is it really that simple? Is that really what has happened? Is this the full truth or is it Miskimmin spin? Well, as with most of the stuff coming out of SNZ there is another side to the Miskimmin account. Here is a table that shows you the medals won at the four Olympic Games funded by Miskimmin’s socialist millions.

Games

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

2000 Sydney

1

0

3

4

2004 Athens

3

2

0

5

2008 Beijing

3

2

4

9

2012 London

6

2

5

13

Total

12

6

12

31

So far all that seems to support Miskimmins argument – 4 medals in 2000, 13 in 2012, 1 gold medal in 2000, 6 in 2012. Perhaps the government’s $23.1 million has been well spent. I’m sure that’s what Miskimmin wants New Zealand to believe. But is there more? Well, yes there is.

This next table shows you the medals won by New Zealand athletes in the four Olympic Games before there was a Miskimmin, before Whole of Sport plans, before the centralized delivery of sport, before Miskimmin assumed control of New Zealand sport.

Games

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

1984 Los Angeles

8

1

2

11

1988 Seoul

3

2

8

13

1992 Barcelona

1

4

5

10

1996 Atlanta

3

2

1

6

Total

15

9

16

40

Would you believe it – in the four Olympic Games before Miskimmin’s money; when private enterprise ruled sport, New Zealand athletes won 29% more medals (40 to 31) and 25% more gold medals (15 to 12)? The figures suggest that the government’s money has bought us nothing. Certainly Miskimmin’s argument is in tatters. His spin is without substance.

Miskimmin also argues that the number of successful sports has increased during his reign. But is this true? The table below shows the number of sports that won medals during Miskimmin’s four Olympic Games and the number of winning sports in the four Olympic Games before Miskimmin.

Games

Sports

No. Sports

1984 to 1996

Canoeing, Equestrian, Sailing, Rowing, Boxing, Swimming, Athletics

7

2000 – 2012

Rowing, Equestrian, Sailing, Cycling, Triathlon, Canoeing, Athletics

7

Well, there you go – no change. In fact the winning sports have stayed remarkably the same pre and during Miskimmin. In the most recent four Olympic Games triathlon has been added and surprise, surprise swimming has vanished into oblivion. Swimming, the sport with the longest tradition of centralised delivery has won nothing all through the period of Miskimmin’s millions.

Equally sad as the litany of Miskimmin spin is the failure of main stream media to investigate what they are being told. There appears to be a culture in New Zealand that if Miskimmin says it – it will be published. That’s sad and bad. Our research clearly shows that if it comes from Miskimmin’s desk it needs to be checked and checked again. Main stream media need to determine – are they being told the truth or is the tale just another part of Miskimmin’s agenda. I think we have just established the motive for this story.

A Cornerstone Sport

December 6th, 2014

By David

I have just read the latest Chris Moller epistle. You may remember, Moller was the author of the 2012 report that has led the sport of swimming into its current parlous state. The purpose of the 2014 report is to evaluate how well Layton, Renford and Villanueva have done in implementing the Miskimmin doctrine as presented in Moller’s 2012 review.

I had to smile at the title Moller chose for the latest report – “Swimming New Zealand, Growing a Cornerstone Sport”. Swimming, “a cornerstone sport”, really? Moller – stones sink! There must have been a better title than that. To give Moller credit though, the title is probably the reports most accurate line.

The rest of the report is best described as delusional. It’s like the Captain of the Titanic telling the crew what a lovely night it is while water floods in through six gashes 20 feet below the waterline. Give Moller a chance and the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez could well end up as the best thing that’s ever happened to Alaskan wildlife.

And besides all that, it is hardly an independent investigation when the investigator is also the author of the original report and was, in part, instrumental in appointing the subjects of his examination. I doubt Chris Moller is about to be report critically on the performance of this Swimming New Zealand Board. What could he possibly say? I prepared this plan. My mates are implementing it as I asked and the results are a shambles. No, the report isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Some specifics might illustrate what I mean.

Try page two – Moller says, “Clarity on and buy into the high performance plan and its execution is essential.” Why the hell should we buy into the SNZ high performance plan? It doesn’t work. It has destroyed three generations of New Zealand’s most talented swimmers. It has cost a fortune and a current world record holder has flown to Australia to escape the plan Moller is trying to sell. You decide. Should we believe Moller’s spin or the actions of Lauren Boyle?

And again on page two – “The Board, and in particular its Chairman, are held in high regard” and “The Chief Executive is regarded as a breath of fresh air”. I understand that those interviewed by Moller are different from the Swimming New Zealand company I share. Where I live Layton and Renford have already outlived their welcome. One regular Swimwatch correspondent insists on calling Layton, “Jabba the Hutt” – high regard indeed. When he was appointed, many reasonable New Zealanders were prepared to give Renford a chance. But profligate spending, unacceptable Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacs and World SC Championship results and a litany of management blunders have worn his welcome thin. I suspect “a breath of fresh air” is now viewed as “just so much hot air”.

On page three this gem deserves special mention – “Significant improvement in communication by SNZ has led to a much improved level of trust, collaboration and discipline between SNZ and its Members.” Moller must be joking. What on God’s good earth does Moller mean by improved communication? The report blabbers on about a monthly telephone call between Layton and the Chairmen of the Regions. From what I’ve read that token communication is merely a vehicle for Layton to tell his minions what SNZ expects. I am certain the servile obedience of those who fear SNZ retribution has been mistaken as trust, collaboration and discipline. Gone are the publication of committee discussions and Board Minutes. The content of Layton’s telephone call is not even published. This is 17 Antares Place behind closed doors. And tell me, would you really trust anyone who signed a form swearing that the shallow end of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre complied with all FINA facility rules? An organization capable of telling that lie has forfeited our trust, our collaboration and our discipline.

On page six, Moller tells us that “the primary objective of SNZ” is to: “Support the growth and performance of the sport of competitive swimming – from entry level Club competitive swimmers to elite High Performance athletes.” How can Moller possibly say that, “the assessed performance of Swimming New Zealand and the sport is 7.5 out of 10” when, measured against its “primary objective”, membership has declined in the past four years by 18% from 21,141 to 17,329. There’s hardly a swimmer left in the Millennium swim school; Lauren Boyle is about to try her luck in Australia and Matthew Stanley and Samantha Lucie-Smith will probably end up in Australia as well. Would the last swimmer at the SNZ swim school please turn off the lights? Certainly SNZ’s performance hardly merits Moller’s score of 7.5 out of 10 – perhaps he meant out of 100.

Page six also provides a long account of the reason SNZ has failed “to transfer of the existing good quality SNZ “teach the teachers” programme along with personnel and funding to an appropriate NZ organisation.” Moller spends 435 words spinning his explanation. And then in his last sentence – the truth. “Most failed to express any interest in taking on the role.” In short Swimming New Zealand spends thousands on an activity no one else in New Zealand gives a toss about. What a sad place 17 Antares Place has become. Moller does admit that the learn-to-swim personnel at SNZ are going to become part-time staff, to “ensure inputs can match demand better.” That’s “Moller-speak” for “this thing is costing more than its worth.” Something the rest of New Zealand obviously already knows.

Page eight provides us with an insight into the way people like Moller see the world. He says, “A membership fee for technical officials was introduced to support the integrity of the membership numbers”. I never thought I’d see the imposition of this fee linked to the word integrity. Only SNZ could pull off that masterpiece. Do they really expect us to believe that SNZ aren’t interested in the money? The real reason volunteer officials have to pay is so they can be counted properly. Yeah Right.

On page nine SNZ talk about the adoption of the new regional constitution. The report says “All regions have either adopted it or have a general meeting scheduled at which it will be adopted.” Of course, there is no mention of the fact that the national constitution makes accepting the regional constitution compulsory. The myth is unanimous harmony. The reality is reluctant compulsion.

The ironically named “High Performance” strategy is discussed on page ten. SNZ tells us that Villanueva is “happy with the strategy”. Clearly it takes very little to keep this Spaniard happy. His trip to Glasgow was an embarrassment. Brisbane was no better and two of the sport’s best swimmers decided that SNZ’s training was so hopeless that they missed the flight to Doha for the World Championships. Only the really stupid still believe Miskimmin’s strategy will work. In this section of the report Swimming New Zealand includes a term that I’ve never heard before. Swimming, it says, will remain in “campaign status” for another year. What does “campaign status” mean? If it means all our best swimmers have buggered-off to Australia to get some descent coaching – then I guess that’s right.

On page eleven, Moller spends some time discussing “a new culture”. Evidently the new culture includes transparency and trust. Trust evidently involves “playing the ball not the person”. I guess that’s why the author of both reports, that’s Moller, publically called on Brian Palmer to stand down as Auckland CEO. Is there a chance that might be a case do as I say, not as I do? But best of all the Moller report tells us that “results at pinnacle events” are “difficult to measure objectively”. What a load of rubbish. It’s very simple Mr. Moller – first is gold, second is silver and third is bronze. PB means a personal best time and that’s good too. Count all that up and you have an objective measure on how well your swimmers have performed. If there is very little to count then you must be reading SNZ’s 2014 results.

That’s probably enough examples to illustrate the futility of this latest Moller missive. Mind you the people Moller interviewed were never likely to come up with anything less than fourteen pages of platitudes. Alex Bauman is hardly likely to admit to wasting millions on a lost cause. SNZ cheerleader, Mark Berge, is unlikely to question the performance of his masters. I would be surprised if Brent Layton and Christian Renford found themselves wanting. John Mace wasn’t appointed President by rocking the SNZ boat. Somewhat symbolically Ian Hunt is on the FINA Ethics Committee. Remind me again – is that the organization who honoured Vladimir Putin, refused to answer valid questions regarding the ban on Sun Yang for using illegal drugs and recognized a world record set in an illegal pool? Does all that sound ethical to you?

Little wonder then that this report is another case of good money after bad. It may not be apposite, but I wonder how many of you know the quote from Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5) “It is a tale. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

 

Power Be Default

December 3rd, 2014

By David

I hear Sarah Thomas (nee Hardcastle) has resigned as CEO of Auckland Swimming. That is a serious and sad event. No one in New Zealand has as much knowledge of swimming at an elite level than Sarah Thomas. Here is a short version of her Resume.

Talk about being born into the sport. Sarah’s mother, Ann, was a swimming coach. She taught several British elite swimmers including, six times world champion, Mark Foster. Sarah specialized in the 400 m and 800 m freestyle. She won multiple major championship medals including individual silver and bronze medals at the 1984 Olympics and two individual gold medals at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. She retired from the sport in 1986 but returned in 1993, winning gold at the 1995 World Short Course Championships for the 800 m and reached the final of the same event at the 1996 Olympics.

Swimwatch readers may have already realized that when it comes to swimming matters I am an exceptionally difficult bugger. I often regret my rush to judgment. But swimming bullshit drives me crazy. Let me tell you there isn’t even the slightest whiff of bullshit about Sarah Thomas. She is the genuine article; honest and knowledgeable. She is the owner of that deep understanding of what it means to be good at sport that ranks her alongside Arthur Lydiard, Arch Jelley, Lincoln Hurring, Ross Anderson and Duncan Laing. Auckland and New Zealand Swimming could have learned a lot from Sarah Thomas. Perhaps they still will.

Unfortunately I suspect Sarah’s patience of swimming bullshit is even less than mine. I am sure she has little tolerance of stupid people; especially self-important stupid people. I have not spoken to her about the subject of her resignation but my guess is she has left frustrated and disillusioned; frustrated because, better than most, she is acutely aware of the changes necessary to reform swimming and disillusioned because the Auckland Region is no longer leading the drive for reform.

If the Auckland Region knew what was good for swimming it would refuse to accept Sarah’s resignation and would pay her 25% more to stay. The Board would then instruct those who questioned the authority of their CEO to shut the hell up. Their irresponsible behavior has been bad for swimming. Their foolish meddling could well have damaged swimming for a generation. And finally the Board should ask Sarah for her advice on how Auckland should conduct its business and, just as importantly, how Auckland should lead the drive to reform 17 Antares Place. For readers unaware of the significance of that address, it’s the HQ of Swimming New Zealand.

Faced with a choice between Thomas and Renford you can probably guess who I’d have running Swimming New Zealand. Ironically I did hear that some time ago Sarah applied for a clerical position at Swimming New Zealand. She was refused an interview and told, “Sorry, you have the wrong background.” That would be the most honest thing SNZ has ever said. Sarah is a winner of Olympic medals, World Championship medals, Commonwealth medals and European medals. For SNZ she sure as all hell has the wrong background. She actually knows what the view from an Olympic podium looks like. Her whole life in sport has been about excellence, integrity and accountability – unlike some who use those words as empty symbols. Like all weak people Swimming New Zealand was scared of someone who knew more than them – way, way, way more than them.

Just as Sarah’s resignation is of deep concern, what happens next is of equal alarm.

Because the hyenas at Swimming New Zealand will be circling. Miskimmin, Layton and Renford will see Sarah Thomas’ departure as the opportunity of a lifetime. They won’t miss the chance seize control of New Zealand’s biggest region. We are about to embark on a game at which the evil empire is expert.

My guess is that the conversations will probably go like this. “Auckland Swimming? It’s Christian Renford here. So sorry to hear you have lost Sarah Thomas? Just calling to see if we can help. Certainly don’t want to get involved in your internal affairs. You know we’d never do that. But, while you are getting the mess you have sorted, we may have some interim resources to help you through.”

“Thank you Christian. Auckland has been outside the Swimming New Zealand family for far too long. What do you think we can do about it?” is Auckland’s groveling reply.

“Well, I’d like to make a suggestion. What say we slot one of our staff into the Auckland CEO position as a temporary fix? SNZ will cover the cost of the salary. Then, as a priority, we will conduct a review, by a member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors, to examine the scope and scale of managing the Auckland Region. We will then have a clear idea of what’s best for Auckland. What do you think?”

“It’s a great idea Christian,” says a relieved Auckland.

Three months later and the Auckland Review has been written. What does it say? With stunning clarity it recommends that the professionals at Swimming New Zealand should manage the affairs of New Zealand’s largest region. Having Swimming New Zealand and Auckland Swimming administration staff in the same town is an avoidable duplication; an unnecessary expense. It also recommends that Auckland’s assets with a book value of $600,000 be “safeguarded” in the coffers of Swimming New Zealand, the parent body. A Special General Meeting is called. The clubs are told that the Review’s recommendations must be accepted in their entirety; management and the assets or nothing at all. As Chris Moller infamously once said, “the reviews recommendations cannot be cherry picked.” Although who the hell was he to say what could or could not be done?

There is no option. The new Regional Constitution outlaws dissent. The vote of Auckland’s clubs will be unanimous. In six months it will all be over. Swimming New Zealand will control Auckland’s management and own its assets. Renford will be pleased. It may even be worth calling into North Harbour Mazda on the way home. That red stitching to offset the black leather and suede trim on the new CX9 is worth a second look; especially now that Auckland is paying the bill.

There it is then. The Swimwatch prediction of what is about to happen. But prophesying this outcome is not difficult. It’s the way Miskimmin does things. A first date followed by the offer of a free review. It’s a tried and true formula. It almost always succeeds in expanding the centralized realm. My guess is that it will work again. Auckland will be annexed to the evil empire.

Those members of the swimming community who made life impossible for talented employees like Palmer and Thomas are about to find out what it’s like to be owned and controlled by the Miskimmin gang. And my guess is they are not going to like it one little bit.