Archive for June, 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Very, Very Ugly

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

By David

I’m as mad as all can be. Regular readers may have noticed Swimwatch has been through a quiet couple of weeks. That’s because there have been a few things going on around here. Let me explain.

A week ago I got a very cheerful email from Helen Norfolk inviting me to a meeting with Swimming New Zealand’s new High Performance Committee. I accepted and we met on Monday afternoon. It seemed like a constructive couple of hours. The Chairman of the Committee, Ross Butler was there. I’ve never met him before but he did a good job not letting Swimwatch get in the way of a friendly encounter. I presented a seven page report on the structure that should replace Cameron’s mess. Although it is a bit long to put up on Swimwatch you will find it at the conclusion of this post. My report is based on the precondition that Cameron had already left the building. However that may be wrong. Day after day goes by and she’s still here. But before we address the question of Cameron let me tell you about a deal I did at the conclusion of the High Performance meeting.

Ross Butler asked me to agree to refrain from publishing Swimwatch criticism of the High Performance Committee’s work. He said he wanted the Committee to be given a fair crack of the whip and for their work to be constructive, unaffected by harsh outside censure. That seemed like a fair enough request so I agreed and we shook on the deal. It was only afterwards I began to wonder if the presence of Norfolk and Fitch on the Committee and this deal with me meant that all opposition to Swimming New Zealand had been silenced. Were we being conned?

Mind you, if that was their game, they are in for a big surprise. I will refrain from criticism of the Committee. I will honour the deal not to discuss their work. In fact I wish them well. Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance programme needs to change. Hopefully this Committee can be the catalyst to bring that about. What Swimwatch will not do is let Swimming New Zealand off the hook. That is a completely different subject.

Which brings us back to Cameron. Why is she still here? Why are Coulter and Byrne still hanging around? I have never seen an official document more critical of anyone’s behaviour than the Ineson Report. Any worse and Ineson’s text would have been unseemly and bad mannered. Short of calling them all “brain dead”, Ineson was as blunt as it is possible to be.

But it seems like Coulter, Cameron and Byrne are attempting to ride out the storm. Coulter has done a shocking job of fielding media attention. He has come across as a bumbling idiot. For a guy whose writing is an exercise in the perils of school boy gobbledygook, his verbal communication places him in a special needs class of his own. Full of “ahs” and “ums” and half finished sentences; he is an embarrassment. Mind you, only the very best can lie and cover the indefensible without pause or hesitation. And Coulter is certainly not in the “very best” category.

Cameron and Byrne however have gone to ground; nowhere to be seen. Cameron, “So where the bloody hell are you?” Clearly the Board have told her to say nothing. Coulter will take the heat and they may just be able to ride this one out. What concerns me is that Coulter may just be right. By setting up their little Committee, by sucking in the likes of Helen and Alison, by doing a deal to silence Swimwatch, they may be able to see this one through. Cameron may survive.

Just take a look at what Swimming New Zealand Board members are saying. Coulter is reported as saying, “We are not talking about people losing their job here.” Another Board member is reported as consistently refusing to discuss anything to do with Cameron’s performance. According to him personal issues are nothing to do with the Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance shambles. Let there be no misunderstanding – without the immediate sacking of Cameron, Byrne and Coulter, Swimming New Zealand is lost. When the Ineson Report was published there were 408 days to go to the London Games. Today there are 394 days left. Fourteen days, twenty eight training sessions, four percent of the total time has gone forever and what has Coulter done? He has set up a Committee. Those individuals, charged and found guilty are still wandering the streets, still making the same decisions that have wrecked swimming for a decade.

Some of New Zealand’s best sporting brains saw through Cameron’s facade ten years before Ineson exposed her failings. Arthur Lydiard was a close friend of mine and knew Cameron well. They met shortly after the Tokyo Olympic Games when Arthur, Jan and some other Olympians were touring Australia speaking to groups about their Olympic experience. Arthur told me his association with Jan gave him a special appreciation of how she worked. On tour, up close and personal, provided a unique insight. Certainly Arthur remembered the details of their time together very well.

Their time together did not blind Arthur to the failings of her high performance programme. In fact it seemed to have made Arthur more aware of that Jan was incapable of delivering on her Olympic promise. He compared the approach he used in Finland with Cameron’s grand scheme. He pointed to the “podium” success he achieved in Finland and the empty returns of the Cameron plan. “It will never work,” he said. And as far as we have gone, he’s right.

It seems obvious that these three, Coulter, Byrne and Cameron are holding on in the desperate hope that someone, anyone can produce a medal at the World Championships in Shanghai. If, by some chance, that happened my guess is they will try and convince SPARC that the Ineson Report is all a big mistake. But by then forty six days will have gone by since Cameron should have been sacked and we will be eleven percent closer to the London Olympic Games. Eleven percent of the total time available wasted because of an intransigent Australian and two incompetent New Zealanders.

In the meantime here is the Report I presented to the High Performance Committee.




It is entirely inappropriate to begin a positive look at the future of High Performance swimming by considering what not to do. So that’s just where I think we should start. Being negative can set parameters that a positive solution should meet. That is the case in this instance. So here is a list of negatives I believe the Governance Committee should consider.


Abandon the Cult of Personality

For six years through the blog known as Swimwatch I have opposed the concentration of power and responsibility for High Performance swimming in the hands of one person. That was not so much a reflection on the person involved. It was a criticism of her High Performance program. A different person with Cameron’s powers would still be a mistake. That would simply be Cameron with a different name. A dictator, even a benevolent and highly talented one, is not what High Performance swimming needs. I know of a hundred people just now who are naming Swimming New Zealand’s next messiah; Mark Schubert, Mark Regan, Bill Sweetenham, Bob Bowman. There are a dozen names out there. All those well meaning people fail to understand it is not the person who needs to change. The most brilliant coaching brain in the world will fail trying to operate in a Cameron style program. New Zealand needed to change Cameron – that was true. But far more important – New Zealand needs to change the Cameron system it currently uses to deliver High Performance swimming to the nation.

Abandon the Millennium Institute as a single focus High Performance Centre

The Committee would be surprised at the number of people who have congratulated me since the Ineson Report was published. Even main stream journalists have begun interviews with expressions such as, “You will be pleased that Jan Cameron has gone” or “The Ineson Report’s criticism of Cameron has validated the position you have taken in Swimwatch.” These comments seriously misrepresent my position. My criticism in Swimwatch was all about the Cameron system; not the Cameron person. I have visited the Canberra Institute of Sport, the Colorado High Performance Centre and the Font-Romeu High Altitude Centre. All three were experiments in concentrating a whole nation’s high performance swimming in one place. All of them failed. Their role now is to support rather than to dominate. All Swimwatch ever argued was that the same fate would eventually befall the Millennium Institute. And so it will. The single national centre concept is old fashioned. It’s out of date. It does not work. The promise of a stream of Olympic medallists flowing out of a single provider was always flawed. It was never going to happen. It is ironic that at the same time Swimming New Zealand trumpeted “excellence in every pool” it was pouring all its High Performance resources into just one pool. Their logo, “excellence in every pool” is the program they should have followed.

Abandon poaching swimmers from their home coaches to the Millennium Institute.

The Millennium Institute poaching swimmers in New Zealand has become institutionalized. It is accepted and encouraged by Swimming New Zealand. And it is wrong. The practice of poaching swimmers is specifically forbidden in most countries. In New Zealand it is actually promoted and advertised each year on Swimming New Zealand’s website. The fact that it is the national body doing the poaching does not make it right. This is not to say swimmers should be prevented from moving to new programs for swimming or education or employment reasons. Of course swimmers should be able to move in these circumstances. But they should be able to move to Dunedin, Christchurch or Wellington just as freely as Auckland’s North Shore. What is wrong is when the resources of the state are spent promoting one coaching program and a select one or two coaches. Two members of this Committee moved from their home programs to Auckland; nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that Auckland was their only option. They should have been able to stay at home or relocate to any other program on exactly the same terms as they ended up getting by moving to Auckland. After all, it was their talent that merited support not Cameron’s club or coaching program.

Abandon the privileged arrogance of the Millennium program.

About a month ago I received an email from a previous Swimming New Zealand Director of Coaching, Clive Rushton. His email contained a quote from an international swimmer. Here is what she said.

The Head Coach did not fulfill her role as head coach. From day one of the trip, she made a clear division in the team between those swimmers who train at the Millennium Institute and those who did not. Everything from training times, transport arrangements, consulting swimmers about arrangements, uniform requirements, and even ‘team’ meetings were segregated, creating a distinct ‘them and us’ dynamic within the team. There was a clear message of “if you’re not one of ‘my’ swimmers, then you don’t matter”. I believe that if New Zealand Swimming is to move forward then swimmers must feel that when they make the same qualifying standard as other swimmers, they are just as valuable as part of the national representative team as any other member. They should also feel that there is one team that is supportive of all its members, not two-tiers within the team, with the criteria for these tiers being whether or not your home programme is under the head coach or not.

The sport experienced a similar climate of segregation at the recent World Championship trials. Cameron fought tooth and nail to avoid entering Millennium swimmers through the normal channels. Direct entry through Swimming New Zealand was the only procedure good enough for her. During the meet, the Millennium swimmers arrived wearing black uniforms adorned with the silver fern and were offered exclusive seating next to the selectors table. Cameron was probably trying to lift the esprit de corps of the Millennium swimmers. The effect actually produced an appearance of arrogance. Certainly the exclusive treatment of swimmers who have yet to win an international swimming race was not good for them or their sport. None of the Millennium crew needs to win an Olympic Gold Medal. They already occupy a position of class and privilege. I was pleased to see the two Olympic Champions in the room, Danyon Loader and Rhi Jeffrey sat on the workers side of the pool mixing with their mates. No ideas above their station in those two.



This plan for High Performance swimming is not my plan. It is advice given to me by the running coach Arthur Lydiard. It is the product of a hundred weekends spent at his home discussing the failings of Cameron’s program and what New Zealand should do instead. However Lydiard’s High Performance program is not just academic theory. It is the program he applied as Head Coach of athletics in Finland. It is the program that directly produced the winners of the 1500, 5000, 10000 and third in the 3000 steeplechase at the Munich Games and the winners of the 5000 and 10000 at the Montreal Games. Five gold medals and one bronze from a country not much bigger than ours in the space of two Olympics make it a program worth considering.


When Lydiard arrived in Finland he understood he could not identify all the Olympic talent available and provide the mix of programs required to nurture a number of Olympic champions. As we all know some athletes respond to sprint based programs; others prosper on a diet of distance. No one coach can possibly provide the diversity of training programs required to bring the multiplicity of athletes available in an entire country to Olympic championship form. Cameron was attempting the impossible. Lydiard was not going to make the same mistake.

The alternative, Lydiard thought, was to coach the coaches. Establish an army of highly trained and motivated coaches throughout the country all capable of nurturing Olympic athletes. Whether the program the coach followed was sprint or distance based Lydiard saw his job as making sure it was the best version of that type of training available and that the coach was resourced sufficiently to bring the athletes through to their full potential.

This is what happens in the United States. Dave Salo coachs a sprint based program in Los Angeles that produces world and Olympic champions. For years Mark Schubert coached the world’s best swimmers using a Lydiard style distance program. Bob Bowman in Baltimore uses a mixed distance and speed program to prepare Phelps. Ryan Lochte’s father coachs his son in Florida using an original copy of Lydiard’s classic book, “Run to the Top”. Diversity is a word that has been much devalued by Swimming New Zealand in the Cameron era. Project Vanguard continues to pour scorn on the very quality that could save this sport. The American’s however recognise that their coaching diversity is their strength. US swimming is able to offer a wide variety of excellent programs offering the nation’s best swimmers a huge choice of training options. In the US there are 32 coaches of national team swimmers: that diversity is their strength.

So that is what Lydiard did in Finland. He travelled the length and breadth of the country teaching, helping, supporting the country’s coaches to improve. Not by making them all distance coaches like he was but by making them identify what they were good at and then encouraging them to do it better. He provided ASSISTANCE and ACCOUNTABILITY. The end result was that three coaches all of whom used different programs prepared the Finnish runners who won five gold medals and one bronze medal at two Olympic Games. And Lydiard was awarded a Finnish knighthood.


Every coach in the country becomes responsible for preparing the country’s Olympic Champions. Those coaches who produce swimmers on the National Team are rewarded financially with the same income earned by the swimmers they coach. Swimmers and coaches on the National Team remain on the team for twelve months irrespective of performance.

A Director of Coaching is appointed whose job is to coach the coaches; to assist them become better coaches and make them accountable for their results.

I have been back in New Zealand coaching for over a year and have never been contacted by Swimming New Zealand (until now) to discuss my program or the athletes in my program. Unlike in the United States I have received no assistance and I have been made accountable to no one. And of course that is the same for Paul Kent, Jeremy Duncan, Gary Hurring, Jonathan Winter and a dozen others. To those who say New Zealand has to go overseas to find good coaches I say – how do they know? For a decade New Zealand’s coaches have never been made accountable for New Zealand’s swimming results. That responsibility was palmed off to Jan Cameron. If Swimming New Zealand made us all accountable in the way Lydiard did in Finland we would deliver Olympic Champions all right.

No one is asking Paul Kent to become a distance based coach or me to change to a Paul Kent type sprint program. Someone though should be making us both deliver the very best programs of our type to the swimmers we coach. Every day we should be expected to explain what we did today and what we plan to do tomorrow towards producing an Olympic Champion. If we produce international results we should be financially assisted. We must be encouraged to deliver the very best program and we must be made to deliver international results. The goal genuinely is “excellence in every pool”.

Let there be no misunderstanding: this is a better way of doing things. Cameron used state money to poach swimmers from all over the country. It hasn’t worked. The coaching plan suggested here worked in Finland and works in the United States. It will work in New Zealand. It is an inclusive program that potentially involves every coach and every swimmer in the country. Any alternative program that requires coaches like me to hand over our best swimmers to some national coach on the North Shore is bound to fail. I have never handed over a swimmer and never will. I will simply not participate and would encourage my fellow coaches to make the same stand. My plea is – don’t replace us, make us better.

In Swimwatch I called the plan suggested here “rugged individualism”. It is a concept that gave New Zealand Olympic Champions; Peter Snell, John Walker, Danyon Loader and Murray Halberg. It has given the United States, Phelps, Lochte and a hundred others. We really should put our faith in an improved version of it again.


  • The Millennium Institute should be closed as a national training centre. The pool should be made available for normal club training programs. There is no reason why the backup medical and sport’s science services available at the Institute should not continue to be available to all the country’s swimmers and coaches.
  • The current Millennium Institute team should be disbanded and the swimmers and coaches should be absorbed into Club programs of their choice throughout New Zealand.
  • The standard of swimmer being paid now should continue to be paid. The difference would be that swimmers would be entitled to those benefits irrespective of their team, coach or geographical location.
  • Swimmers should be on an annual contract that cannot be terminated during the period of the contract.
  • Coaches of paid swimmers should receive the same remuneration as their highest paid swimmer, also on a one year contract. That should be the only remuneration paid to any coach.
  • A Director of Coaching should be appointed. His/her terms of engagement should clearly define the role as coaching New Zealand’s coaches. The Director of Coaching is not to get involved in coaching swimmers.
  • Essentially the Director of Coaching would spend much of his/her time travelling the length of New Zealand visiting coaches for the purpose of:
  1. Setting their coaching goals
  2. Setting training and performance goals for their best athletes
  3. Costing those coach and athlete goals
  4. Evaluating their performance against those goals
  5. Providing assistance and input into their coaching that may assist produce a better result.
  6. It would be up to the Director to ensure that every coach in the country was aware that it was their job to prepare Olympic medallists; that New Zealand’s Olympic results were their responsibility and they were being evaluated against that standard.
  • The Director of Coaching’s role would be one of assistance and accountability. Most coaching personalities work best under pressure. It would be the task of the Director of Coaching to provide assistance but also to apply that pressure.
  • Done properly and New Zealand will end up with 15-20 well trained and motivated coaches doing what two coaches are expected to accomplish in the Cameron regime. We are certain to provide a better outcome.

From Someone Who Was There

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

By David

For a number of years New Zealand had a Director of high performance swimming called Clive Rushton. He will probably be horrified when he reads this but, I liked Clive. His ideas on coaching were more scientific than my “swim and when you are really tired – keep swimming” methods. But he was good to me and my swimmers. He had dinner at my home one night when that carried all sorts of political perils. It was one of those enjoyable evenings when the wine and stories flowed happily well into the small hours. When Toni Jeffs left me to swim on her own Clive provided her with good and important advice. He was also responsible for one of my favourite coaching quotes. When I called to let him know I was leaving New Zealand to coach in the US Virgin Islands he said, “That’s great David. Coaching is always best done under a palm tree.”

Clive has posted a comment on the Swimwatch story I wrote about calling a special general meeting. I felt his point of view was sufficiently important that it should be a Swimwatch story in its own right. After all Clive was there; right in the heart of Swimming New Zealand. He was there when a lot of the decisions that have ended up in the mess we are in today were being made by Cameron, Byrne, Coulter and his Board. Here is Clive’s point of view.

“OK, to put some perspective on the “we knew nothing”, “it’s not us” debate:

Way back in 2001 I had a High Performance Advisory Group (HPAG) which met periodically to discuss the various issues and which debated with gusto and passion. Although the makeup changed over the years it was comprised of combinations of the following: me as HP Director, Director of Coaching, whatever I was called at the time, the leader of the National Age Group programme (Clive Power), the leader of the National Youth programme (Trevor Nicholls), a coaching representative from NZSCAT (Mark Bone, Frank Tourelle), the immediate past National Coach (Brett Naylor), a High Performance director from another Olympic sport (Mark Elliot), two high performance coaches (Duncan Laing and Jan C), a former international swimmer (Trent Bray) and the swimming representative from SPARC (latterly Don Tricker). I was not obliged to take up the group’s recommendations (“advisory”) but they were included in my reports and many good suggestions found their way into the HP programmes.

The Board was fully aware of the group’s deliberations as, in the early days; I personally attended Board meetings for the HP-specific portions. Latterly this changed and the reports and proposals were presented to the Board by the CEO without my presence. The accuracy and comprehensiveness of these later presentations was always in question The idea of a HP Advisory panel is, therefore, not new and not revolutionary. It is, however, vital.

The dysfunctional nature of the MISH programme and Jan’s role in it was known to the Board as early as 2007 and had been intimated much earlier. Following the 2007 World University Games I instigated an extensive and comprehensive analysis of the lead-in preparation and the competition itself. Every team member (swimmers, coaches, team manager and support staff) as well as each swimmer’s ‘home’ coach completed a questionnaire. I say every team member but hey, guess what? Jan ‘forgot’ to complete hers. I won’t go into the very fine detail of the answers and comments but here is an illustrative example:

“The Head Coach did not fulfill her role as head coach. From day one of the trip, she made a clear division in the team between those swimmers who train at the Millennium Institute and those who did not. Everything from training times, transport arrangements, consulting swimmers about arrangements, uniform requirements, and even ‘team’ meetings were segregated, creating a distinct ‘them and us’ dynamic within the team. I was asked once during the entire 10 day period of the build up and competition by the head coach whether “everything is OK”, and even then it seemed to be a token attempt to offer assistance, as she barely stopped to hear my reply. There was a clear message of “if you’re not one of ‘my’ swimmers, then you don’t matter”. I believe that if New Zealand Swimming is to move forward then swimmers must feel that when they make the same qualifying standard as other swimmers, they are just as valuable as part of the national representative team as any other member. They should also feel that there is one team that is supportive of all its members, not two-tiers within the team, with the criteria for these tiers being whether or not your home programme is under the head coach or not.”

The rest of the feedback followed a similar line.

The SPARC representative was present at the HPAG meeting which examined the report and analysis, so SPARC were fully aware that everything was not rosy way back then. The report was then submitted to the CEO and subsequently to the SNZ Board.

That was four years ago, three years before the performances in New Delhi were deemed weak enough to trigger a review. There is a significant time-lag between a breakdown in culture and trust and the knock-on effect in the performance pool. In the meantime some of the best swimming talent in the world has been lost or misguided.

The President and, I guess by definition, the Board was made aware of Mike Byrne’s management style in mid-2008. Accusations of bullying, harassment and intimidation of staff were sent in writing to Murray Coulter who ‘investigated’ them and took no action. This was followed by a complete review of the SNZ staffing structure which put in place the current disastrous ‘team’.

Mark my words, if the swimming community in New Zealand wishes for change in Swimming New Zealand it will not get that change by waiting for it on a voluntary basis; turkeys, Christmas etc.”

That is a pretty damming document. The Regions of New Zealand swimming must not let this moment drift by.

Swimming New Zealand Special General Meeting

Monday, June 20th, 2011

By David

The most recent Swimwatch post argued that events in Swimming New Zealand required the Regions call a Special General Meeting for the purpose of disbanding the current Board. This post will consider how this could be achieved.

The Special General Meeting should have three objectives:

  1. To pass a vote of no confidence in the current Board.
  2. To pass a motion removing all the current Board members from office.
  3. To elect new members to vacant Board positions.

Rule 18 of the Swimming New Zealand Constitution covers the procedure for bringing this about. However before we consider the meeting itself, it is important to list the Regions of Swimming New Zealand and their membership. The number of members in a Region determines the votes that Region can exercise at a Special General Meeting. Here is what the Constitution says:

Each delegate present will be entitled to one vote. If member clubs within its region have more than 1,000 members each regional association (by its delegate) will be entitled to one extra vote per 500 extra members or part thereof in excess of 1,000 members. No regional association shall have more than 25% of available votes.

I have no idea how many members are in each region. The table below shows what Swimming New Zealand’s website says were registered in the period July 2010 to April 2011. Like much of the information contained on their website I have little doubt that this too is out of date and wrong. Coulter would do well to make sure this sort of stuff was right rather than telling the Regions he was sent to assume ownership their affairs.

So, how do we call a Special Meeting? Rule 18.2 says:

18.2 The Board shall call a special general meeting upon receiving a requisition signed by not less than 50% of the regional associations.

There are 16 Regions. To call a Special General Meeting requires a request signed by eight or more Regions. Surely that’s possible. An analysis of the Project Vanguard minutes indicates that far more than eight Regions are unhappy with the current Board. My guess is that Northland, Auckland, Counties, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Wanganui, Southland, Canterbury and others would be prepared to sign a Special General Meeting request.

The Special General Meeting must be held between two and four weeks after the Region’s request. If the request was submitted by the end of this week a Special General Meeting of Swimming New Zealand could be held between the 4th and the 18th July. Here are the two rules that apply.

18.3 Where a special general meeting is requisitioned it shall be convened within four weeks of receipt of the requisition.

18.4 At least two weeks written notice of a special general meeting shall be given to all Directors, clubs, regional associations and NZSCTA.

Care needs to be taken with the wording of the notice of request. Here is what the rules say.

18.5 Such notice shall specify the time, date, place and business of the special general meeting.

The tricky part of this rule is the bit requiring the business of the meeting to be specified. What is the business of this particular meeting? People like me might prefer to see Coulter and his mates ordered to mount their bikes and ride at night through a wet Wellington southerly on their way to the airport, never to be seen again. That’s about what they deserve.

However even I accept that Coulter, Cameron, Byrne and the current Board are entitled to due process. In my opinion, justice is more than they ever offered Rushton, Ansorg, Friel, Bousaid, Herring and a long list of others. It’s certainly more than they would have ever offered me if they had had the chance. However to deny them justice would make us no better than them. And that’s not a place we should ever be seen. Perhaps the business of the meeting should be to simply consider the Ineson Report. However the notice must not be so general that it prevents the Regions passing a vote of no confidence in the current Board, removing the current Board members from office and electing new members to vacant Board positions.

Coulter is a master at using meeting procedures to get his own way. A river full of Hangaroa eels has nothing on this guy. If the notice of meeting is too general he will rule any motion of censure out of order and escape to Wellington Airport sipping champagne in a white limo, still Chairman of the Board. The notice must be general enough to allow a fair trial but specific enough to let the regions pass judgement and execute sentence.

The final business of this Special General Meeting should be to elect a new Board. Swimming New Zealand’s Annual Meeting is only a few weeks away. The new Board will need to be re-elected at the Annual General Meeting. I believe the new Board should be elected with the intention of having their election confirmed at the Annual Meeting. In other words the new Board should not be intentionally temporary. Elect a good Board now and let it get on with the job.

What does it take to get all this done. Here is the Swimming New Zealand rule that applies:

18.7 For any resolution to be carried at a special general meeting there shall be a majority of 60% of votes cast.

Even though the Swimming New Zealand membership numbers used in this post are probably hopelessly inaccurate, if they were correct, to pass this business, to reform the sport, to herald a new and winning beginning would take a vote at the Special General Meeting of 60% of 23 votes – that’s 14 votes. A positive vote by Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato would total seven votes – half the majority required. Reform requires seven more votes from the 13 remaining Regions. One or two Regions may have sold out to the dark side. There should however be more than enough to score a victory for the good guys.

If anyone had any doubts about why Coulter needs to go, have a listen to this inept, buck passing shambles of an interview with Radio New Zealand.

Eighty-Three Percent and Counting

Friday, June 17th, 2011

By David

Can it possibly be true? Is it conceivable that Coulter is about to try and ride out Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance storm? If you were able to watch last night’s TV1 report that’s what seems to be happening. Coulter was asked if the Swimming New Zealand Board needed a “shake up”. He replied, “I don’t believe so.” The reporter then asked how Coulter explained the fact that eighty three percent of the people interviewed for the Ineson Report were “critical of the leadership”.

And in a classic piece of Coulter spin he replied. “It’s eighty three percent of people that are critical of the High Performance program – not the entire Board.” That reply says it all. It tells us why Coulter is bad for the sport of swimming. It explains the culture of deception exposed by the Ineson Report. It highlights a burden of duty that must be accepted by Swimming New Zealand’s Regions. Here is why.

First of all eighty three percent were critical of Coulter’s performance. Here is what the Ineson Report says (PDF). The quote in question is on page 16.

“Of concern is that 83% of feedback was critical about the leadership of SNZ in all three areas – Board, CEO and GM Performance and Pathways.”

That’s Murray Coulter. He’s the boss of the Board. He’s in charge of Byrne and, through Byrne, he’s responsible for Cameron. And eighty three percent of Ineson’s feedback said Coulter and his mates are not up to the job. For the last six years the High Performance Program has been run directly, lock stock and barrel, by Swimming New Zealand. They own it. The High Performance Program belongs to the Swimming New Zealand Board. What happens at the Millennium Institute is Coulter’s baby. In the opinion of Swimwatch, it is unbelievably dishonest and cowardly for Coulter to try and separate himself and his Board from the High Performance fiasco. This mess belongs to you, Murray Coulter, and don’t try and dodge responsibility with your characteristic and obvious spin.

Unbelievably Coulter is the snake oil salesman who tried to sell New Zealand on the idea that he should directly run the whole sport. Accept Project Vanguard and we’d have professionals like Coulter running everything. Wouldn’t that be a good idea? Just look at the sterling job he’s done managing Cameron’s crumbling empire. Mind you there is no excusing Coulter’s attempt to distance himself from Cameron and the High Performance program. That is flat out cowardly. It is time for him to front up and take responsibility for the mess on his watch. Of course you need to be a man to do that.

It is inconceivable that the Committee appointed to look into the Ineson Report should be made up of current Board members. Only Coulter would think that is correct procedure. What it means is – the people who are responsible for the High Performance debacle are now going to sit in judgement on what should be done about it. Eighty three percent have said it’s the Board that is on trial. Along with Coulter this Board has long since forfeited the right to decide on anything to do with swimming’s corporate future.

Which brings us to the most important point of this post. Eighty three percent of the members interviewed by Ineson were “critical about the leadership of SNZ in all three areas – Board, CEO and GM Performance and Pathways.” In a situation like this the members of Swimming New Zealand have a duty of ownership. When members observe those responsible for managing the organization failing to do their job they have a right to expect the Board to step in and correct management’s failings. When the Board fails to do that; when the Board does not act, then the members have a responsibility to act to protect their interests.

That is what has happened in swimming. Byrne and Cameron’s management of the High Performance program failed. Ineson’s Report has exposed the disaster. The Swimming New Zealand Board has also failed to act. Their website told us how stunningly well everybody had swum at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games. Cameron was positively ecstatic. It took the outside intervention of SPARC to alert the Board to the High Performance mess. This Board was so high on the opiate of Project Vanguard it had no concern for the disaster on its doorstep. At that moment the Board forfeited the right to lead.

Also, at that moment, the interests of Swimming New Zealand required that the membership step into the management vacuum. When a Board is not doing its job – and Ineson has told us that is the case – then the shareholders must take control. In this case that is the Regions. The conclusions of the Ineson Report give the Regions of Swimming New Zealand no option but to call a Special General Meeting for the purpose of disbanding the existing Board, by means of a vote of no confidence, and electing a new Board of men and women who have the moral authority to govern.

That step is not a good idea or a recommended option. That step is required. If Auckland and Bay of Plenty and Southland and the thirteen other Regions do not intervene and take control of their organization they will be just as guilty of neglect as the management and the Board have been before them. There comes a point in events such as these when it is time to act. Exercising the constitutional power of the Regions to replace a Board is not a step to be taken lightly. However Ineson’s Report is bad. It tells us that eighty three percent of Swimming New Zealand’s members have no faith in organization’s management or Board. The Region’s have been given the power to replace both. I would hate to sit at this computer in six months time contemplating a continuing shambles at Swimming New Zealand and find myself typing a story that said – I’m sorry Auckland and Waikato and Wellington, but when it was your turn to take control you sat around and did nothing.

Incepto Ne Desistam

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

By David

So Cameron and Byrne have gone. Swimwatch has fought for six years for this day. From the moment Cameron first proposed her socialist dream on Auckland’s North Shore, this column said it would not work. New Zealand was doomed to lose and we did. A generation of New Zealand’s best swimmers put their trust in Cameron; they sold their talent for Cameron’s thirty pieces of silver and they lost what mattered most. They lost their shot at Olympic glory. Six years ago Swimwatch was right; absolutely, totally right. Finally, today there is vindication.

However there is no sense of joy or elation. There is relief but no thrill. Why? Because the job is only half done. There are two important things still to do.

First – Coulter and his Board must go. They have been found desperately inadequate. They have fiddled while Rome has burned. It is not as though they were not told. Swimwatch told them constantly that this day would arrive. They did not listen. They ignored our warnings. Now they must pay the price. Their ignorance; their short-sighted vision; their willingness to tamper with legality is terminal. The Regions must find and elect a Board with the integrity and the moral authority to govern.

I am sad for someone like Alison Fitch. She is a good person. Unfortunately she should have left weeks ago. Now she is guilty by association. Those around her in Wellington have provided the very worst of examples and she has been found short of the courage or vision to do anything about it. Now she must pay the price with her resignation. Coulter, Berge and Toomey are the Board’s inner circle. Responsibility for this fiasco lies squarely with them. They have played politics with the reputations of some very good people. There are still several unanswered questions about whether they have lied and cheated in order to push their agenda. This lot should leave the building tomorrow and never have anything to do with sport in New Zealand again. I am especially disappointed in Toomey. In name only he is a lawyer. In reality, he needs to learn much about what it means to chose between good and bad, right and wrong before he seeks to progress in that profession.

Disappearing along with the old Board should be the unseemly mess that is now Project Vanguard. That fiasco is as discredited as the organ that gave it birth. I guess the passing of Project Vanguard could be seen as one very good thing coming out of all this turmoil. Actually that’s not fair. A second good thing also happened. Suzanne Speer acted with great dignity and courage in the face of some petty dirty pool. For that alone I’d nominate her for the new Swimming New Zealand Board. She has already demonstrated the character and honesty required to get this show back on the road.

Second – SPARC has done their job well. They have acted in a manner not normally associated with Wellington bureaucrats. They have identified a problem and have taken prudent and decisive steps to bring it into the open. They have acted in the very best interests of this sport and sport in general. They deserve the highest respect for their courage and their good management.

Their good example must not be wasted. SPARC has provided swimming with a blank sheet of paper on which a new, successful Swimming New Zealand can be designed – especially a new elite swimming program. That opportunity must not be missed. New Zealand must not meddle again in the socialist worlds of Cameron and Vanguard. They are discredited beyond redemption. Federalism is where this sport in New Zealand needs to be. Swimwatch readers may recall a story we did recently in which we suggested New Zealand build its elite program around a philosophy of “rugged individualism”. That is where New Zealand found Olympic Champions like Snell, Halberg, Walker and Loader in the past. That is where they will be in the future. And incidentally that is where the United States finds them today – in Baltimore and Daytona Beach and Delray Beach; in their version of “rugged individualism”.

SPARC has provided us with a once in a generation opportunity to do something good for swimming in New Zealand. Treat that responsibility with care. Don’t just go off to the United States and hire some high profile University coach and put him in charge of the Millennium Institute. That’s just Cameron with a different name. That won’t work. Look instead at maximizing New Zealand’s coaching resources. Look at improving what Hurring does in Wellington, what Duncan does in Invercargill, what I do in Auckland and what a dozen other coaches do across this country every day. Make us the team. Make us responsible. We will not let you down. Kent, Meihe, Winter, Bouzaid, Wright, Hurring, Duncan, and a few others – we can get female swimmers doing 1.53 for 200 freestyle and 58 for 100 backstroke. Cameron never could, but we can. The opportunity is before the administrators of swimming in New Zealand to provide our coaches with the structure that allows and compels us to provide you with world class athletes.

We have concluded a dark chapter of dictatorship rule in the history of New Zealand swimming. Things could not have got worse. The sport is most certainly on its way back. Thank you SPARC. It’s up to us now.