Notes To The Accounts

October 26th, 2014

By David

I have an uncomfortable feeling that I should offer an apology for this Swimwatch post. Why – because I am going back to the subject of the Swimming New Zealand 2014 Annual Accounts. I imagine there are few readers that find accounts of any sort all that interesting. The reputation of accountants as dull pencil pushers has not been earned because their job has the appeal of Formula One racing. Accounts are usually a dull description of last year’s history – they can be pretty boring.

However accounts also give us a picture of what the management of a business sees as important. How has the organization’s money been spent? What are the priorities of the business? Is the corporation secure? Is its future in good hands? And for all these reasons it is well worthwhile spending (excuse the pun) some additional time on the 2014 Swimming New Zealand accounts. Because the numbers do suggest a change in priorities; an exposure to greater financial risk; perhaps even a suggestion that the sport’s financial future may not be in good hands. The picture painted by this set of accounts is seriously bad – really, really awful, terrible, shocking horrific. I emphasise that point only to stress how abysmal I believe things have become; in the hope that the members of Swimming New Zealand will consider the case put by Swimwatch and will demand a change in the direction currently being followed by the current Board and management. Or perhaps, better still, – may demand a change in the Board and management that set the organization on this new and dissolute course.

In two previous posts Swimwatch has discussed the dramatic reduction in money applied to swimming related costs. The accounts suggest that SNZ’s core business has been neglected. For example in five years PEGS scholarship money has declined from $K298 to $K171 (43%). Athlete Rewards payments have plummeted from $K31 to $K11 (65%). Money spent on athlete/coaching support has dropped from $K721 to $K576 (20%).

At the same time as the spending on swimming has declined, the money spent on administration, salaries, cars, office equipment, and consultants has ballooned beyond belief. The cost of leasing flash cars has risen from $K37 to $K85 (130%). The cost categorized as Administration has climbed from $K365 to $K682 (87%). The cash wasted on consultants and marketing has grown from $K55 to $K112 (104%). To call it profligate could well be justified.

And while all this change of priorities has taken place the sport, at the Olympic level, has won nothing and the competitive swimming membership has declined from 6,510 to 5,498 (18%). I guess all this could be best summarized as ironic. In five years Miskimmin has poured $11,120,748 into swimming and at the two Olympics in that period has won nothing and has serviced 1012 fewer swimming members. You would think, even a hockey player, could figure out that’s not right.

In addition to the comparison figures mentioned above, accountants use a variety of ratios to measure the financial health of an organization. I wonder how Swimming New Zealand, with all its Institute of Directors’ Board members and foreign, well paid executives, measures up.

For example a sound, healthy business ensures there is adequate diversity of revenue sources. Have the leaders of swimming been able to guide the sport into a position where a diverse range of income sources provide financial security and the prospect of long term growth? Not bloody likely is the answer. In fact the business of swimming is as dependant on government money as any welfare beneficiary. An unbelievable 54% of all swimming’s income comes from one source, Peter Miskimmin. The sport is not an independent strong business. It’s as much a government cost centre as any state school or public hospital. Right now the “Lord giveth” but what happens when the “Lord taketh away”?

But, before rushing to judgement, how well have the Institute of Directors and foreign imports done in building income from the core business of swimming? Is swimming all about government hand-outs or is swimming a healthy business with a strong income stream from its staple activity? You probably know the answer already. Membership fees account for 6% of swimming’s income. Work it out. With those figures who do you think will get the majority of Layton and Renford’s time? What relationship do you think Layton and Renford will spend most time cultivating? Who is more important to them? Peter Miskimmin’s 54% or your swimmer’s 6%?

In a sport where 54% of all income comes from the government, profit is a meaningless figure. Miskimmin is able to manipulate his hand-outs to ensure costs are covered but profits are small. And that is exactly what he appears to have done. Any normal business aims to achieve a profit to income ratio of 10%. Miskimmin allows swimming just 0.4%; enough to survive but not nearly enough to build financial independence. Miskimmin wouldn’t like that. It would render him irrelevant.

Over many years the management of Swimming New Zealand has maintained a healthy liquidity ratio. This measures the extent to which the current assets of the organization cover the current liabilities. Most companies look for a ratio of at least 1/1.1. In other words the assets of the company cover all the liabilities with a small surplus. The liquidity ratio of SNZ is a healthy 1/1.3.

Of more concern is the ratio that tells us that it would take almost every cent of the annual membership income to pay for the already incurred liabilities of the organization. In other words, if Miskimmin’s money stopped, the whole place would need to be closed and the members would have to pay their fees for a further year just to pay off the debts already incurred.

And so what do we know about Swimming New Zealand?

  1. Membership is constantly declining.

  2. Spending on swimming related costs is being cut.

  3. Spending on administrators and their fringe benefits is sharply increasing.

  4. The business is seriously exposed to the whim of one income stream.

  5. The income generated by the core business is so small as to be irrelevant.

  6. And, worst of all, SNZ is proving itself useless at running a Millennium swim school.

It’s all there. Just read the SNZ 2014 Annual Report. No matter what SNZ might say, the numbers don’t lie.


Is Australia As Bad As Us?

October 21st, 2014

By David

It is with some caution that I cross the Tasman Sea to discuss swimming in Australia. However recent news seems to carry a message for New Zealand.

About a year ago Swimming Australia announced a plan for the preparation and training of elite swimmers. The national federation, they said, would select and approve successful clubs as High Performance Centres. I think about nine clubs were awarded the new classification.

My immediate reaction was very positive. Australia had replaced a state run swim school in Canberra with several good quality clubs. It had traded state socialism for private enterprise. Why couldn’t New Zealand see the sense in what the Australians were doing? Surely everyone could appreciate that a team of ten or eleven elite coaches was always going to have more success than a government swim school on its own. As every Swimwatch reader knows, in New Zealand, that argument has fallen on deaf ears. Miskimmin’s obsession with the centralized delivery of elite sport means 99% of swimming in New Zealand is barred from participation in the elite sport plan.

At least that’s what I thought Australia had done until this week when I read a SwimVortex story about the trials of James Magnussen. You may know that Magnussen is the current 100 metre freestyle world champion, and holds the 4th fastest swim in history in the 100 metre freestyle with a time of 47.10, which also stands as the fastest swim in textile swimwear material. Here is a summary of what the James Magnussen, SwimVortex story has to say.

James Magnussen is at loggerheads with Swimming Australia over a plan to make a childhood friend his new coach, according to a news report in Australia. The Courier Mail notes that Magnussen’s search for a new coach after his split from Brant Best is now in its fifth week. The delay in finding a solution for the world 100m freestyle champion involves the refusal of Swimming Australia to approve Magnussen’s plan to train at Ravenswood swim club in Sydney’s north under Mitch Falvey.

Magnussen confirmed to SwimVortex that he is in talks with (Swimming Australia) about his next move. One option would be for the sprinter to base himself at a performance centre that forms part of the athlete funding model in Australia. Magnussen has been told that Mitch Falvey is not on the ‘funding’ list. The sprinter could opt out of being funded and do what he likes without that affecting his eligibility for national teams.

So here we have the spectre of a swimming federation cutting off the financial support for a world champion who wants a coach of his choosing. Australian swimming is the same socialist prison as New Zealand. It’s just a bigger one, that’s all.

Who on earth do these Australian’s think they are? Swimming New Zealand has an Australian CEO, Christian Renford. Before Renford came to New Zealand he was the Chief Executive of Rowing New South Wales following three years in a similar role with Rowing Queensland. The CEO of Swimming Australia is a guy called Mark Anderson. Prior to working for Swimming Australia, Anderson was the CEO of Hockey Australia and a former Chief Commercial Officer at the Essendon Football Club.

Wow, that’s impressive – an Australian from Rowing is happy to tell a New Zealand World Short Course and Commonwealth Games champion who she should train with. And, in Australia, some guy from hockey will not fund James Magnussen unless the Australian World Champion is coached by someone approved by the ex-hockey stick. What is it about the sport of hockey? In New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin, was a hockey player and happily wanders around New Zealand telling us how swimming should be structured. No matter how good or successful we are as coaches and swimmers there is no participation unless coach and swimmer are part of the hockey player’s centralized empire. And in Australia another hockey import finds it perfectly okay to instruct a world swimming champion about who is an acceptable personal swimming coach. It’s mind blowingly incredible. It seems that both these products of the sport of hockey will only play when the odds are well and truly stacked in their favor.

But I have a theory – Miskimmin and Anderson think that the only joke told about hockey is actually part of the instruction manual for managing international sport. You may know the one I mean.

A famous hockey coach goes to heaven, where he puts together a team of history’s greatest players. God decides he’d like to play a friendly game against the team from hell. He phones the devil and asks, “Are you interested in a game of hockey?”

“Why not?” replies the devil. “I’m warning you, though. You’ll never win.”

“Well, we have the best players of all time!” says God.

“I know,” says the devil. “But we have all the umpires!”

And so the admiration I had for Swimming Australia has gone. The move towards numerous (nine) High Performance Centers, that I interpreted as the start of the decentralized delivery of high performance sport in Australia, was nothing of the sort. It was just another hockey import extending the size of his centralized empire. All the tell-tale symbols of socialist control remained firmly in place. No appointments are made without politburo approval. No one gets any money without politburo approval. The recipients of politburo support represent a minute portion of the population. It’s still all about the state, in the form of Swimming Australia, controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange. And swimming in New Zealand will sadly follow the Aussie example. Miskimmin, the hockey player, wants it that way and Renford – well he’s an Okker struggling to understand anything more sophisticated.

It fair beats the hell out of me why we continue to copy and employ bloody Australians. Consider this fact. In 2008, the joke voted by Australia as the funniest Australian joke of the year was this gem

Q – What’s brown and sticky?

A – A stick.

Only Australians and hockey players would think “a stick” was remotely funny. Unfortunately, though, the joke is on us. In swimming we have hockey players and Australians. The guys who voted for a stick as the funniest joke of the year now either run swimming in New Zealand or, in Australia, provide us with an example of state control that we slavishly follow.

FINA Ratify Swimming New Zealand World Record Application

October 18th, 2014

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Take note of today’s date, the 16th October 2014. On this day a Swimming New Zealand lie was accepted as the truth. Honesty and integrity in the sport of swimming in New Zealand died. On this day FINA assured the world they accepted the lie of Swimming New Zealand; had, they said, received all the assurances FINA required and good governance and sound judgement passed away.

Boyle’s 1500 Metre Swim

October 14th, 2014

By David

It must be said before this post goes up that nobody–I am willing to bet anywhere, including here at Swimwatch–holds Lauren Boyle in anything but the highest regard. She deserves admiration, recognition and continued success, and in no way is this meant to be a criticism or attack on Lauren’s swimming or character. What follows is a criticism solely of Swimming New Zealand and FINA. Lauren’s achievement in Wellington deserves nothing but respect; it is the national and international governing bodies that potentially let her down, and are continuing to let themselves and all involved in the sport of swimming down.

I see Craig Lord has written an interesting post on the website. In it he discusses the likelihood that FINA are going to approve Lauren Boyle’s 1500 swim as a world record. The decision is a disgrace. FINA, it seems are going to make a decision no better than the lie Swimming New Zealand told in completing the Record Application form. Lord’s post is well worth a read. Here is the link.

There is no doubt that many in the swimming world are interested in the FINA decision. FINA’s integrity is well and truly under the spotlight. Is FINA capable of acting with integrity when it comes to the hard decisions? We are about to find out. Some idea of the extent of world interest in the decision can be found in the number of comments on the original SwimVortex story on the illegality of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. That story had 97 comments. In comparison the recent story about Michael Phelps late night driving misdemeanors had 42 comments.

It seems swimming people do care about how well their sport is governed. They do want to see a level playing field enforced. They do want FINA to stand for something more important than disqualifying a ten year old from Pahiatua for a non-continuous backstroke turn. And if Craig Lord is right it looks like they are going to be disappointed in the honesty of the world governing body.

One of the comments made on this second SwimVortex story was posted by me. I think it is an interesting opinion. Here is what I said.

It may be of interest to note the following huge anomaly. The meet Lauren swam the 1500 meter time was a provincial Championships – the Wellington Winter Short Course Championships. Three of four weeks later the same pool was converted to the “deep” end for the National Winter Championships. That is not a simple or cheap process.

It involves bringing in a heavy duty crane during the night and lifting a three ton boom over a second boom and relocating it at the deep end of the pool and of course returning the boom to its original position at the end of the National Meet – a process that with the altered electronics and the like must cost in the order of $30,000 – $50,000 dollars.

And so if signing Lauren’s application was so correct; so compliant with “all FINA rules” why did the SNZ National Association spend thousands of dollars converting the pool for their championships a month later. What a waste of time and money if all FINA rules had actually been met – as the record application claimed. Of course they spent the money for the Nationals because they knew their pool as it was configured for the provincial meet did not comply with FINA rules.

Why then did they allow their referee and CEO to sign a form saying it did? I’ve never drawn attention to that contradiction but $30,000 – $50,000 for a week’s meet seems like a lot to spend if they really thought the pool was fine.

Remember what the Record Application requires? It asked Swimming New Zealand to confirm that “ALL” FINA rules had been met when the record was set. Swimming New Zealand signed the application form swearing on a stack of bibles that was true – all FINA rules had been met.

It seems very simple. The events are mutually exclusive.

Either the existing pool met all FINA rules and there was no need to change the pool and all that money was wasted


The pool did not comply with FINA rules and the alterations were necessary and the people who signed Boyle’s record application lied.

Come on Swimming New Zealand you make great play of integrity, accountability and all that other stuff, which one was it. Was changing the pool an unnecessary waste of thousands of dollars or did you guys lie when you signed the record application?


What Is The Alternative?

October 8th, 2014

By David

This is an edited version of a story that appeared on Swimwatch yesterday

It will be no surprise to learn that this blog does not approve of the centralist, socialist policy Peter Miskimmin recently imposed on Swimming New Zealand. For ten years, under Jan Cameron it failed. And Jan was better at it than the current lot. In all probability, another generation of swimmers; another $20,000,000 will be lost before we have the opportunity to change. A couple of years ago, Brian Palmer and Bronwen Radford almost pulled off something better, before they mistakenly did a deal with the Peter Miskimmin and lost us the opportunity of real reform.

Bronwen Radford is still the Chair of Swimming Bay of Plenty and was re-elected at their AGM in July 2014.  Brian Palmer however has gone from his position in New Zealand regional administration. He is now the CEO of Saudi Arabia Swimming. And New Zealand sport is a poorer place. Why Radford continues only she would know but I am guessing it has something to do with her passion for the sport in the Bay of Plenty. Swimming New Zealand probably wish she was in Saudi Arabia with Brian Palmer. She continues to make life difficult for Swimming New Zealand.  At the AGM, I am told, she was the only person that challenged their performance.

The Palmer and Radford mistake was expensive. It will cost a generation of New Zealand swimmers their swimming careers. The chances of Miskimmin’s socialist program working in international swimming is close to zero. However the Palmer and Radford decision to trust Sport New Zealand was not bad or malicious. It was a decision of decent and worthy people who wanted to see something good; something better. They were shafted. That’s all.

And if you don’t believe me remember how Miskimmin invited Palmer and Radford down to Wellington and told them how important they were to the successful running of swimming in New Zealand. Less than six months later, Miskimmin’s hired gun, Chris Moller, was calling for Brian Palmer to be sacked as CEO of the Auckland Region. If anyone wants to know what we are dealing with in Sport New Zealand and the new Swimming New Zealand, remember that story. With the exception of Jan Cameron, the old swimming New Zealand was incompetent. In my view, this lot are bad and good at it; a much more dangerous beast altogether.

Sadly, when I look around, I see very few Palmers or Radfords involved in the current administration of New Zealand swimming; very few courageous souls prepared to speak truth to power. The new President of Auckland Swimming, Willem Coetzee has a talented son who swims and I suspect would agree to just about anything to avoid upsetting those who currently have some say on the future of his son’s swimming career.

The President of Hawkes Bay / Poverty Bay stood around while two of my swimmers were badly treated in his region. He even apologized to me about one of them. The swimmer did not accept the apology; too little, way too late. I can’t imagine Bone standing up to those in power. Way too cautious for that I would think.

And then there is Wellington’s Mark Berge. The fact his name gets mentioned in Swimwatch will, I suspect be cause enough to send the next Wellington Region Board Meeting into Committee for thirty minutes and possibly will even see Berge dashing off to his solicitors. All that to stop Swimwatch, but questioning why the new Swimming New Zealand spend as much (almost) on Mazda cars as they do on swimmer’s scholarships? No I don’t think so.

And in the Bay of Plenty I see that Nathan Capp’s home club are planning a movie evening to raise $8000 for Capp to attend the World Short Course Championships. That news did puzzle me a bit. You see the selection document states quite clearly that SNZ will pay for the full cost of the trip for all of those selected and then based on the results from the Championships (as per Note 5) the athletes will be invoiced for their respective costs. Athletes who finish in the Top 8 will be fully funded, Athletes who finish 9 to 16 will be partially funded.  So does Nathan need $8000 to compete at the World Champs? He has posted one of the fastest times in the 1500m short course this year so is looking pretty good at not needing to pay, he simply has to swim the same time he posted at Nationals.

While I’m on the subject of costs, is it true that Nathan and his mates from the Millennium Institute were again accommodated and feed at no personal cost during SNZ Short Course Nationals. Yet the selection document said attendance at these Championships is user pays as it did for the Commonwealth Trials.  Obviously paying only applies to swimmers outside of the Millennium Institute because in both instances Millennium swimmers have been paid for by the taxpayer – that’s you and me.

One other anomaly that came to mind with the mention of Bay of Plenty and Bronwen Radford was something I read recently. In the SNZ’s Freestyle Newsletter I noticed a link to a staff vacancy advertisement; possibly Rebecca Turner’s job. The job description said how well swimmers have done at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Games. At Pan Pacs, it said, New Zealand won 4 medals – 2 Silver and 2 Bronze.  But I thought Lauren won 2 Silver and one Bronze, Glen 1 Bronze and Kane 1 Bronze that equals 5.  Kane Radford’s Open Water Bronze has obviously been missed. That’s the second time SNZ has ignored that swimmer; has simply forgotten Open Water Swimming even exists. I hope Bronwen gives them hell. I hope Kane does not read the job position or this Swimwatch post.

So what is the alternative for young talented swimmers who reach the age of eighteen, who want to continue their swimming careers, who need to further their education and are being wooed by the Millennium Institute? Well my advice would be to avoid the Millennium Institute. It does not work. Dozens of New Zealand’s best swimmers have been sucked into its swimming pool and no one has won an Olympic anything. Whatever Lyles or Villanueva or Bouzaid tell you about free pool space, free gyms, medical backup and career advice – ignore the lot of it. Remember the advice New Zealand’s most successful Olympic coach, Arthur Lydiard, gave about selecting a coach or a coaching program, “Just have a look at the athletes he’s trained. If many have become elite you may also. If none have made it, that’s how you’ll end up!” At the Millennium Institute none have made it, that’s how you will end up.

About a year ago I got an email from a parent whose son had committed himself to the Millennium program. This is what it said.

“I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.  By the time he broke free from the Staasi it was too late for him.  Now he is still studying and has underachieved in all areas in terms of meeting his real potential.  Thank you Jan Cameron.  We (including him) are left now wondering how good he could really have been.”

That is a story that has been repeated dozens of times. Do not add to the tale of hurt. Avoid the Millennium Institute.

However this old email also hints at a better alternative. In the first sentence the swimmer’s mother says, “I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.” The recruiting she is referring to for her son was of course the possibility of attending a US University on a swimming scholarship.

Consider this option carefully. The success of swimmers who have attended US Universities on swimming scholarships in their swimming careers and in their post swimming lives far exceeds any product of the Millennium Institute.

Lauren Boyle is the most recent and most obvious advertisement for the value of a US swimming scholarship. But the list of those who have been successful swimmers and successful graduates goes back well before Lauren Boyle.

In the 1950s Lincoln Hurring was a student at the University of Iowa on a swimming scholarship. He represented New Zealand at two consecutive Summer Olympics, 1952 and 1956.

Gary Hurring was a student at the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship. He won a gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the men’s 200 meters backstroke and a silver in the same event at the 1978 World Aquatics Championships.

Antony Mosse gained a BA (Hons) from Stanford University in 1989 and later completed an MBA at the same university. Mosse won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. He rounded out his career when he won the 200m butterfly at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Paul Kingsman earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where his swimming developed a sharply competitive edge under the tutelage of Coach Nort Thornton. He participated at the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 200 meter backstroke.

Simon Percy swam on a scholarship at the University of Arizona. He reached the final 50 back at the 1991 World Championships in Australia. Percy also came in third in the 200 back at the 1991 Pan-Pacific Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

John Steel was men’s swim team captain at the University of Southern California. Steel competed at two consecutive Summer Olympics, starting in 1992. Steel won two silver medals at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada.

Johnny Munro attended the University of Southern California on a swimming scholarship. Today he is a prominent Auckland criminal lawyer.

Anna Wilson attended the University of Arizona.

But perhaps the example that has had the most profound effect on my view of the value of a US swimming scholarship is my daughter Jane. She attended Washington State University on a swimming scholarship and graduated with a BA degree. The benefit of her experience in life, in travel, in knowledge, in growth, in education and in interest was superior to anything offered at home in Hawkes Bay or at Jan Cameron’s Millennium Institute. Her subsequent career in the internet search engine industry in Seattle and London would not have happened without the Washington international experience.

And finally this month Jessica Marston began swimming on scholarship at Jane’s old school, Washington State University. West Auckland Aquatics were delighted to help her win this opportunity. There is more to life than swimming. Jessica is off to see just how much more.

Anyone wanting some contacts I made with US University coaches during my seven years coaching in Florida should send me an email. I’d be only too happy to help. Anything to avoid the SNZ Millennium trap.