The Cost of Representing the Country

October 18th, 2018

The previous Swimwatch post showed a breakdown of the charge made by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to each of the swimmers selected to swim in the World Short Course Championships. I think it is appropriate for us to consider each of these costs. Are the swimmers being ripped off? Nothing would surprise me. This is SNZ after all.

Air Fare – SNZ charge $2,477

This amount is typical of SNZ; extravagant and wasteful beyond belief. My guess is that SNZ know it is as well. In their cost breakdown they go on about all sorts of factors that justify selecting the expensive option. For example how long is the flight, how many transfers are there, what is the transfer time, does the team need to collect luggage due to changing airlines, what do we know about the transfer location, how stressful is this journey and what is the departure and arrival time. All of that is clearly an effort to justify Johns or Francis prejudice in favour of Air New Zealand.

The most cursory search on Webjet will find the following options.

Direction Airline Duration Stops Duration Cost Saving
Out China Southern 16h 5m One 2h - -
Return China Southern 16h 5m One 2h 50m $1,414 $1,063
Out Air China 17h 35m One 2h 5m $2,014 $463
Return Air China 16h One 1h 35m

I cannot imagine the Air New Zealand flights are any quicker. Air New Zealand only fly direct to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. So the team is going to transfer somewhere. No, this is all about SNZ spending other people’s money to avoid flying on a Chinese airline; ignoring the fact that both Chinese airlines fly the most modern 787 Dreamliners on this route. My guess is it’s SNZ racism and a rip-off. Loyalty to the national carrier is one thing but charging someone else a 75% premium is disgusting. If Johns and Francis are so attached to Air New Zealand they should pay the air fares themselves and back off charging swimmers a 75% premium.

Accommodation – SNZ charge $1,850

Before commenting on this cost we need to know more about the FINA subsidy. We have been told, “FINA provide a small subsidy for 4 athletes to attend the World Short Course event, this subsidy is split across the group of athletes.” It is important to know the amount of the subsidy. What does small mean? Was there a subsidy for any of the traveling staff and was this also split among all the team?

A cost of $168 per day for food and accommodation seems reasonable. However that ignores the fact that the swimmers should not be charged a cent – especially and unbelievably when the cost includes swimmers paying their own entry fees. That is despicable. If ever Cotterill, Johns or Francis had any chance of respect they lost it the minute they decided to charge Hunter, Godwin and sixteen others the entry fees for a World Championships. How do they sleep at night?

Uniform – SNZ charge $600

Here again my complaint is not the amount but the fact that swimmers are being charged at all. The ultimate irony is the following comment in the SNZ cost breakdown, “On a daily basis the team should be matching, smart and proud. The team kit ensures that they look smart, the (sic) feel great representing their country.” There might be some chance of swimmers feeling great representing the country if they weren’t paying for their entry fees and airline seats knowing that Gary Francis is sitting back fully-funded, not spending a cent. It is hard to feel pride in that, no matter how smart you might look.

Travel Insurance – SNZ charge $121

Southern Cross travel insurance, a reputable company, quoted me $77.98 per swimmer for the same trip. Why SNZ should be 55% more expensive is beyond me; unless SNZ are charging swimmers for the premium older members of the management team pay.

Team management fee – SNZ charge $0

The seriousness of including this line was discussed in our previous post. Do not be fooled by the $0 figure. Here is our previous warning.

And second, what is the last line, “Team Management Fee”, designed to prove? Why is that there? The only possible reason is to convey the message that SNZ considered asking swimmers to pay for the Gary Francis’ junket, but behold how wonderful they are, SNZ is going to pay for him themselves. Including the fee category leaves the door open for Cotterill, Johns and Francis to charge swimmers for their overseas perks in the future. The very presence of that line is a monumental insult and should be of serious concern to every swimmer in New Zealand. It clearly shows that swimmers paying for a New Zealand team manager at a World Championships is considered legitimate. It just wasn’t done this time. They are seriously disgusting people.

Conclusion – SNZ charge $5,300

SNZ never cease to amaze. I doubt any one of them could get a job in the real world. The individual charges listed in the cost breakdown total $5,048 per swimmer. But SNZ are charging the swimmers $5,300. Who gets the difference of $252? Where does that go? Who pockets that money? Clearly Johns’ education did not include the finer points of double entry book-keeping. Over sixteen swimmers the error will give SNZ a profit of $4032. That’s what SNZ are pocketing above the costs incurred by the swimmers – clearly enough to pay the Gary Francis airfare and accommodation.

Add in potential savings on airfares of $1,063 per swimmer, $19,134 for the team, and $43.02 per swimmer, $774.36 for the team, for insurance and $4032 for poor arithmetic and SNZ could have paid $23,940.36 less to attend the same meet. That’s a saving of $1,330,02 per swimmer. All caused by SNZ doing a shoddy job. It is difficult to feel much pride in that.

SNZ stand unique in the world as the only federation that looks to profit from sending a team to the World Championships. Gee that makes me feel proud – that’s irony in case I am misunderstood.

If You Say So – Happy Tuesday

October 17th, 2018

This week the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) High Performance Logistics and Operations Manager, Amanda White, decided to reply to the Swimwatch posts discussing the $5,300 fee SNZ is charging swimmers selected to represent New Zealand at the World Short Course Championships. This is what she wrote.

For clarity on the finances on this user pays meet (no different than previous years) if anyone would like a breakdown on the costs please feel free to contact me directly on amanda@swimming.org.nz.

We are always more than happy, as the swimmers and families have already experienced, to be 100% transparent about costs for accommodation, Food, transport, accreditation and event entries which are charged to SNZ by FINA, the NZOC and other International bodies we liaise with to send swimmers to their meets. We do not on charge Staff costs. The HP Team and the Board strive to keep costs at a minimum for the Swimmers to ensure future sustainability. We only wish we had more and could pay for attendance for all of our HP Swimmers!

Happy Tuesday :-)

I accepted SNZ’s kind offer and have asked to be sent the breakdown of the $5,300 user pays fee. I hope to be able to include the SNZ reply later in this post. But before doing that let’s consider the content of Amanda’s Facebook comment. The first line says, “this user pays meet (no different than previous years)”. That is not true. It is a lie. In 1991 I went with Toni Jeffs to what was then the first World Short Course Championships in Majorca, Spain. To this day I believe that team is the only New Zealand team to go to a world event and have every swimmer win a medal.  Toni got bronze in the 50 freestyle. And for Amanda’s education, all three swimmers had their costs paid. The same thing applied to the Perth and Rome World Championship teams.

Contrary to the Amanda lie, charging swimmers a user-pays fee to swim in World Championships is relatively new. When SNZ was well run and financially independent, before the days of Miskimmin social welfare, swimmers didn’t have to pay to represent the country in a world championship. It is only since the rip-off merchants in charge of SNZ today came along that stinging swimmers for every cent has been the norm. Amanda should not lie to us. It reflects badly on her honesty and on the organisation.

Besides even if charging swimmers in the past was true, there is no reason why it should continue today. If that was true we would still have ten year olds working in coalmines. Because something was done in the past is no reason for it to continue.

The beginning of the second paragraph makes great play of SNZ’s transparency. Amanda says, “We are always more than happy — to be 100% transparent.” This is the ultimate irony coming as it does from the least transparent organisation I know. Remember when Board Minutes used to be published. That doesn’t happen anymore. Remember when we received monthly management accounts. That’s gone too. Remember when I asked for the report into a complaint about my coaching. That is still denied. Amanda really needs a shot of reality. She works for an organisation that is about as transparent as Russia’s Kremlin.

Amanda concludes her comments with these two gems. “The HP Team and the Board strive to keep costs at a minimum for the Swimmers to ensure future sustainability. We only wish we had more and could pay for attendance for all of our HP Swimmers!” What a pathetic joke. Johns and Francis are paid the thick end of $300,000. Johns flies to Japan on a ceremonial junket. Francis is on a freebie to China. There is no purpose in him being there. He doesn’t coach anyone. None of this is keeping costs to a minimum. It is the same old spend as much as you like on Antares Place inmates; to hell with those who actually do the work. Amanda clearly has no idea of what keeping “costs to a minimum” means.

And as for the trite “sustainability” comment. How much money does Amanda think these swimmers have? $5,300 is probably about 25% of many swimmers’ annual income. What world does she live in? There is nothing sustainable about that. Making a comment like that shows all the understanding and care of Marie Antoinette’s, “Let them eat cake.”

Amanda concludes by wishing SNZ had more money; what a joke. SNZ has plenty of money. If they had more they would spend it on themselves. The problem is what they waste it on. Nowhere is that better illustrated than by the lies and distortions in Amanda’s Facebook post. We simply cannot believe a word that Cotterill, Johns, Francis and now Amanda say.

I have now received Amanda’s reply with the $5,300 cost breakdown. Here is her table of costs.

Flights $2477 Considerations when booking flights are to satisfy the overall question –

“To ensure our athletes arrive on location in the best shape possible, able to recover quickly and perform at their absolute best in competition”

How long is the flight?

  • How many transfers are there?
  • What is the transfer time? Is it long enough or too long? If it’s too long is there an option for comfort and rest?
  • Does the team need to collect luggage due to changing airlines?
  • What do we know about the transfer location?
  • How stressful is this journey?
  • What is the departure and arrival time?
  • Can we get food when we need it?
  • Who is the airline we are travelling with and what have the reviews been from previous teams?
  • Can the flight take the full team?
  • What is the cost?

For this journey to China, when answering the above questions, to name a few, the Air New Zealand option was considered the only option for this team.

Accommodation

(Full Board / Airport Transfers / Daily transport to and from the training venues and competitions venues / entry fees

$1850

NZD for 11 days.

Once the FINA Subsidy of has been split across the athletes equally.

These costs are none negotiable

Uniform Individual.

The most any athlete would pay for uniform is $600 for 13 items.

Considerations:

Temperature of location?

Duration of stay?

Ability to wash kit on location?

On a daily basis the team should be matching, smart and proud.

The Team Kit for the SNZ HP Team has been kept the same since the end of 2016 based on feedback from previous events.  We have done this to allow athletes to use the same kit each year and avoid purchasing a full set. Each team member has the option to buy as few items as they need as long as they travel with the full team kit list.

The team kit ensures that they look smart, the feel great representing their country. Feedback from teams previous to 2016 was that  “they would rather pay more and feel like they have presence when competing on the World stage away from NZ”

For China, SNZ have added 1 Merino Long Sleeved top to the list but removed a short sleeved t shirt due to location.

SNZ are funding a black hooded puffer jacket and a woollen hat for each member of the team.

Travel Insurance $121 All members of SNZ are fully covered when travelling with the teams.
Team Management fee $0 SNZ fully funds all Team Management

I will discuss this more fully in a future post. However two items are of immediate interest.

First it is interesting to note that in the accommodation section of this table Amanda says, “Once the FINA Subsidy of has been split across the athletes equally.” Quite obviously the amount of FINA’s subsidy has been deleted after the word “of”. So much for Amanda’s earlier assurance that she would, “be 100% transparent about costs for accommodation”. Hiding the amount FINA is paying hardly sounds like 100% transparency to me. I guess that’s another lie.

And second, what is the last line, “Team Management Fee”, designed to prove? Why is that there? The only possible reason is to convey the message that SNZ considered asking swimmers to pay for the Gary Francis’ junket, but behold how wonderful they are, SNZ is going to pay for him themselves. Including the fee category leaves the door open for Cotterill, Johns and Francis to charge swimmers for their overseas perks in the future. The very presence of that line is a monumental insult and should be of serious concern to every swimmer in New Zealand. It clearly shows that swimmers paying for a New Zealand team manager at a World Championships is considered legitimate. It just wasn’t done this time. They are seriously disgusting people.

Philippine Fame

October 17th, 2018

For sixty-five years I had little contact with hospitals. I did spend a week or so in Hawke’s Bay Hospital sorting out a blood pressure problem. But apart from that, and being born of course, I have steered well clear of needing hospital treatment. But then about five years ago all that changed. I became a hospital regular.

I won’t bore you with the range of problems that have seen me admitted to hospitals in Waitakere, North Shore and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.  In six years I have been admitted twelve times. Obviously the most unusual was my visit to the German Saudi Hospital in Jeddah. That was because a nail went through the sole of my shoe and poisoned my foot. Today I visit the Waitemata Health Board Apollo Road clinic each week. The staff there are in the process of sorting out a problem with my kidneys.

But there is a common feature that I want to tell you about. All three hospitals employ an amazing number of nurses from the Philippines. The world it seems is receiving most of its health care from Philippine trained nurses. And I am very pleased that is the case. The care I received in Jeddah from a Philippines trained nurse saved me from the risk of serious blood poisoning that could have put my foot at risk. Currently there are about 186,000 actively practising registered nurses in the Philippines; a further 280,000 Philippine-trained nurses are working abroad. From just over 10,000 in 2001, the number of Filipinos in New Zealand increased to more than 40,347 in 2013 (the last census published), a significant number of whom were nurses and engineers. Whoever in the Philippines is providing their training is doing a very good job.

I noticed an interesting article in the New Zealand Nursing Review. This is what it said about the training nurses receive in the Philippines.

The Philippine national education standards for the four-year nursing degree also state clearly that caring is the ‘core of nursing’ and should be emphasised in the curriculum, along with the other core values of “love of God, love of people and love of country”.

Anonuevo believes putting such values at the core of Philippine nursing education is part of what has made Filipino nurses – apart from their being English-speaking – so attractive to the world market.

“We are into details – our hospitality, our cultural sensitivity and our caring – these are the characteristics of the Filipino nurses as described by others.”

But all the nursing leaders spoken to also stress that the Filipino nursing workforce is about more than just being good at the soft skills of caring. Since the 1980s all Philippine-trained registered nurses from the long-established schools have undergone a four-year degree programme to ground them in the ‘hard’ skills required to be clinically competent nurses.

For three reasons I could not agree more. The efficiency of Philippine trained nurses provides confidence that they know what they are doing. They treat me as an individual; always remembering and calling me by my first name and they bring an amazing amount of humour to their job. It all goes to produce health care of the highest order; efficient, individual and fun.

I can’t remember the names of all the nurses at the Apollo Clinic. But those I do remember are Angie, Riza, Filbert, Jacque and Genalyn. And what an amazing group that is. They tease me mercilessly. Telling me that they will be charging a five dollar nursing fee to park my car. Explaining that they were actually employed as cleaners but working complicated medical equipment looked more fun than a bucket and broom. Asking when I am going to let them swim in the National Championships with Eyad.

But they can also snap out of their fun mode in a heartbeat. The other day my blood pressure dropped to a seriously low level. Quick as lighting the nurses were all business, altering the machine, checking and double checking my recovery. Later they even wheeled a blood pressure machine out to the car to make sure I was fit to drive home.

I especially appreciate the time each nurse takes to explain what’s happening to me. Sounds silly but it is reassuring to know what’s going on and to know that they know so much about my treatment. .

New Zealand is very fortunate to have a well-run and free National Health Service. I have never found the attention I receive wanting in any way. Irrespective of nationality the nursing has been first class. However it seems to me that New Zealand is especially fortunate that some highly qualified nurses from the Philippines chose to make New Zealand their home. Thank you for coming here and thank you for your care.

Whitewash

October 15th, 2018

Miskimmin’s sporting empire is currently flooded in investigations and reports. There is nothing too unusual about that. Ordering an investigation is Miskimmin’s preferred method of creating instability through which he can grow and consolidate his personal power. One by one the reports are being prepared and made public. This week Michael Heron QC submitted his Heron Report into Cycling New Zealand (CNZ).

This report is the usual mix of the good, the bad and the ugly that we have come to expect from investigations into New Zealand sport. We can often learn more from the reaction to the report than what is in the report itself. Heron has focused his attention on the behaviour of ex-CNZ coach, Anthony Peden. The report concludes that Peden was too tough, drank too much and was seen kissing a female cyclist goodnight after a night out in Bordeaux, France. Peden is long gone from CNZ. He resigned months ago and was not around to defend himself for this report. Today he is coaching the Chinese national team. I find it hard to understand how a Queens Council can support such positive charges against Peden without hearing from the accused. The report even says that, “there was a lack of accountability and leadership throughout the CNZ operation and a reluctance to raise issues, which led to a lack of reliable evidence.”

If the evidence is so unreliable why are we expected to believe that the conclusions, reached on the basis of unreliable evidence, will be sound? Heron’s report reflects badly on his judgement and on my old high school, Wellington College, and university, Victoria University. I can only assume his right wing politics have clouded the teachings of his early education. On this evidence Heron appears to have been watching too much American television. We can do without “Kavanagh” decision-making in New Zealand.

I am not surprised that Peden’s lawyer’s reaction to the Report’s findings was, “unsurprising given that the evidence obtained and relied on is predominantly second and third hand, and includes conjecture, perception, conjecture-on-conjecture, anecdote, hearsay, gossip and rumour” Hear hear to that.

The report becomes more balanced when it discusses the reaction of CNZ to the accusations made against Peden. The Report points to “an absence of accountability” and “sub-optimal leadership” as reasons for failings within the sport. High Performance Sport New Zealand does not escape criticism for their lack of action, despite their knowledge of the issues. Now all that has a ring of truth. If events at Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) are any example, an absence of leadership, sub-optimal leadership and a lack of action are true to form.

What else would explain the decision to deny an accused the right to see the result of a three day trial? What else would justify a decision to charge New Zealand’s best swimmers $5,300 to attend a World Championship while SNZ staff have their costs fully paid? What else would vindicate an annual competition program devoid of logic or sense? Who else would see no fault in manipulating rules and selection criteria? SNZ that’s who; corrupt beyond belief.

As we know the SNZ Board and senior management ignore bad behaviour. They sit in their closeted offices as though none of this bad conduct matters. Swimmers and coaches; no one except them matters. Their pay, their status, their cozy little number is all that needs protection. So how did the gods at CNZ respond? Exactly as you would expect SNZ to react is the answer.

Here is how the Stuff website reported the reaction of the CNZ Chairman, Tony Mitchell.

CNZ chairman Tony Mitchell said there would be no changes at the top of the organisation, despite Heron’s findings that Matheson “appeared to take a one-dimensional approach to issues” and didn’t fully investigate potentially serious incidents.

“Andrew Matheson is our CEO and the board has confidence in Andrew,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the organization “acknowledge[s] the areas we did not get right and that more should have been done. Cycling New Zealand apologizes to all those adversely impacted during this time.”

“We have already begun solid dialogue with our athletes whose views are fundamental in establishing an open and honest high performance environment where our riders and staff can relate with each other directly and with respect to ensure such circumstances do not arise in the future.”

Blah, blah, blah – just the sort of rubbish we have been trained to expect from the SNZ Chairman, Bruce Cotterill.

The reports final conclusion is that High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ) could have done more to ensure issues were being adequately dealt with by CNZ. Heron said “HPSNZ as a whole knew enough of the circumstances before May 2018 to have done more to assist.”

That conclusion applies equally to SNZ. No one can tell me that HPSNZ don’t know about the secret report into my hearing. HPSNZ know that SNZ lie and cheat their way through life. Why else would they cut the state’s funding of the sport every year? But do HPSNZ do anything about putting the sport back on the straight and narrow? Do they demand SNZ provide me with a copy of my Report? Do they ask for the resignation of Cotterill, Johns and Francis? No of course they don’t. HPSNZ is as bureaucratic and useless as those they rule. For as long as that neglect is the rule, sports in New Zealand that are beholden to Sport New Zealand for their existence will wither and die. A lack of moral leadership in sports, like SNZ, who rely on Sport New Zealand for the majority of their income will continue to lurch from one crisis to another; will continue their steady and quantifiable decline.

Are They Thick Or What?

October 14th, 2018

Last week a Swimwatch post highlighted the $5,300 fee Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is charging each of the eighteen swimmers selected to attend the 2018 World Short Course Championships in China. Several features made the fee particularly heinous.

  1. It is an appalling way for SNZ to show its support for a national team. The stain of SNZ affects us all.
  2. Compared to swimmers from other national teams New Zealand swimmers will be arriving as second class citizens. Imagine the shame of paying for the cap you wear to represent the country.
  3. While eighteen swimmers are each paying a huge fee of $5,300, six officials are having the full cost of their trip paid by SNZ. And we thought slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833.
  4. I can only hope that the eighteen swimmers on that airplane to China recognise they have been ripped off by the six officials sitting with them who are being fully funded by a disgusting decision of the SNZ Board. I hope the swimmers give the sport’s representatives, especially Gary Francis, the respect they deserve – none.
  5. At least one swimmer is having to resort to public fundraising in order to pay the SNZ fee. The others will fundraise or will rely on family and friends to finance the cost of representing our nation. For those who can help Emma Godwin, here is her “Give-a-Little” page. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/swimming-world-short-course-championships-trip
  6. When compared with the extravagant wages paid to Johns and Francis and other inflated costs of SNZ’s administration, the World Championship travel fee demonstrates the most appalling set of values and use of public money.
  7. SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

It is the last of these points I want to highlight in this post – SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

Without question charging this fee has brought SNZ into disrepute. That is not the swimmers’ fault. It is certainly not the fault of Swimwatch for reporting the fee. This one is all down to SNZ. It is the values and priorities of their Board and senior management that have led the sport to this stunning low. They frittered away the organisation’s financial reserves. They wasted money on ineffective executives and their costly perks. They employed a succession of expensive and unsuccessful foreign coaches. For twenty years they pursued a failed centralised training policy. They allowed a once proud and stand-alone sport to become a state welfare beneficiary. Their record is pathetic failure heaped upon pathetic failure.

The financial plight of eighteen good New Zealand swimmers has brought SNZ’s chickens home to roost. If the Swimwatch analytics data is to be believed the reaction has been embarrassing, serious and worldwide.

In twenty-four hours the story has been read 501 times. That is about twice the readership of a normal Swimwatch story. Readers have come from 24 countries. The table below shows the top five of those countries.

Country Number of Readers in First 24 Hours Percent of Total
New Zealand 388 77.60%
United States 31 6.20%
Australia 24 4.80%
United Kingdom 11 2.20%
Canada 6 1.20%

Twenty-four countries in twenty-four hours is a pretty broad readership. Clearly the plight of New Zealand’s best swimmers has struck a nerve around the world. Clearly SNZ is receiving the opprobrium it deserves.

The quality of the critics has also been significant. Take Rhi Jeffrey for example. Before I had anything to do with Rhi’s coaching she won an Olympic Gold Medal as part of the USA relay team at the Athens’ Olympic Games. She also won a couple of Gold Medals at the Barcelona World Championships. She was a very classy swimmer; strong and powerful, with a wonderful feel of the water and a deadly approach to competition. Today Rhi is the Head Coach of the Cannonball Club in the USA. It is a lucky club indeed who has someone of her knowledge and ability coaching their team. But her other quality – Rhi is no one’s fool. In fact she’s as sharp as a tack. That’s what makes her interesting and her views worth serious consideration. Here is her reaction on Facebook to the SNZ user pays story.

Rae RaeYesterday at 3:51 AM ·

Guys, the NZ World Championship Swim Team is being told they need to pay $5,300 a piece out of pocket to compete at Worlds. THIS. IS. APPALLING. While their staff members get free rides, the athletes are being forced to resort to GoFundMe pages to help raise funds. DISGUSTING!!! SHAME ON YOU SWIMMING NZ!!!!

SNZ are way braver or more stupid than me. When they do something that elicits this reaction from someone like Rhi they should be very concerned. In this case that appears to be exactly what they have done. Oh, SNZ will hide away down here in the bottom of the world. Things will move on. Johns and Francis will continue to prosper at the expense of the membership. But SNZ need to recognize their actions have brought the sport into disrepute, literally around the world. They have earned the condemnation of the sport’s finest swimmers. To quote Rhi, “Shame on you Swimming NZ.”