Rushdee Warley Appointed Olympic Campaign Manager

By David

The future of the present Swimming New Zealand Board is uncertain. Mike Byrne too is hanging on by his finger tips. The term “lame duck” was invented to describe their situation. Wikipedia tells me the term means an “official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure.” That sounds like the Swimming New Zealand Board and Mike Byrne to me.

However their lame duck status is not stopping Swimming New Zealand and Mike Byrne making seriously important decisions. In the circumstances, making decisions that affect the long term health of the sport is irresponsible and unethical. Take this most recent announcement:

Swimming New Zealand has secured the services of an experienced high performance manager to fill the role of Campaign Manager through to the 2012 London Olympic Games. With the Olympics fast approaching, Swimming NZ last week approached High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) to ask if performance consultant Rushdee Warley would be available to take on this role. Rushdee has been a performance consultant, firstly with SPARC and now with HPSNZ, for the past four months. Prior to that, he was High Performance Manager for Swimming South Africa. He held this role from 2004 until earlier this year, when he moved to New Zealand.

Apart from Swimming New Zealand’s brief resume, I have no personal knowledge of Rushdee Warley. I know South African swimming has been through some rough times. To say that the USA based South African swimmers have not been too happy with their national federation would be a serious understatement. It left me wondering if Rushdee Warley had played any role in his home country’s swimming troubles. I contacted a friend of mine in South Africa. She recommended that I read three articles. And here is what I found.

First article:

The SSA executive will need to sort out a mess that is fast getting out of control after an incident that occurred at the World Short Course Swimming Championships in Manchester in April. Sprinter Shaun Harris admitted this week he was involved in the incident. He was sworn at by the manager of athlete development, Rushdee Warley, when he asked for a swimsuit. When he asked national coach Dirk Lange why Warley did not like him, he was told it was because he is “white and Afrikaans”. Harris approached Warley on the pool deck in front of Lange to confront him, and Lange slapped him. Harris was warned not to take the matter further and is reluctant to tell SSA about it. But with further reports that both Lange and Warley did not perform well in Beijing, swimmers have started coming forward in an appeal to the SSA executive to get rid of them.

That all sounds a bit physical and racist to me. I’m not sure how long I would last as a coach if I swore at swimmers who asked for a swim suit or defended coaches who assaulted their swimmers. Mellissa Ingrim, Daniel Bell and their friends would be well advised to get in a good supply of togs before asking for a new pair becomes a high risk endeavor. The reference to “white and Afrikaans” is especially repugnant. He had better not come up with that sort of crap around here. His tenure will be as short as those who employed him. And then there is this quote :

Cape Town – Swimming bosses on Sunday prohibited Western Province from playing in the final of the inter-provincial water polo tournament because they did not have enough players of colour in the side. Chairperson of Swimming South Africa, Rushdee Warley, said that the requirement was that either one of the thirteen water polo players making up a squad had to be of colour, or one of the team management had to be of colour. “If waterpolo as a sport, refuses to transform, we need to take drastic steps like this”, said Warley. According to Warley, though, it was very difficult to tell which players were of which colour based on just the team lists that were submitted.

I’m happy to reserve judgement on Rushdee Warley but he had better not try and impose his country’s racism on our sport. That is not and never will be the New Zealand way. Our little country has been through several periods where defending South African racism caused us some very unhappy moments. We will not be party to anymore interference by South Africans in New Zealand’s race relations. Keep your racist views to yourself, Rushdee Warley.

And then in 2008 a Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the turmoil in Swimming South Africa. Sound familiar? Members of the Commission were the highly respected, Norman Arendse, Kirsten Van Heerden and Rowen Meth. Here is part of what they had to say about Rushdee Warley:

However the swimmers’ complaints were regarding the special and unique needs of high performance swimmers that were not being met by Warley and his less-than-satisfactory people management skills. – This being said, there is no doubt that Warley’s (at times) overzealous and robust approach had angered many. While it may not have been his intention to do so, the sentiments of some swimmers, coaches and officials have substance. To his credit Warley has conceded he has shortcomings as a Performance Manager.

Well I’m blown away. It sounds like Swimming New Zealand searched and searched until they found another Jan. Has Mike Byrne really appointed someone to be the performance manager of the New Zealand swim team to the London Olympic Games who has confessed to a Commission of Inquiry that he has “shortcomings” in that job? Does Mike Byrne know that Rushdee Warley shares with Byrne “less-that-satisfactory” people management skills? It seems like the South African Inquiry found all the same shortcomings in Rushdee Warley that Ineson found in Jan Cameron and her program. Well done Mike Byrne. It sounds like all New Zealand’s best swimmers are out of the frying pan, into the fire.

  • Tom

    I believe we should reserve judgement on Rushdee Warley until he’s had adequate time to prove himself. However, a simple Google search of Rushdee Warley’s name does produce a number of concerning news stories. This doesn’t mean the allegations against him are true, but it’s cause to be weary. I certainly hope SNZ have made an informed call. The sport needs some good news from the top.

  • Chris

    This is interesting. My concern (well, in fact, several) is – was this position ever advertised? I can understand the urgency of making such an appointment, but frankly, the Ineson Report came out in June! They have had four months knowing that Ineson recommended a Campaign Manager for London, so if this position has not undergone the normal rigour of a recruitment process, who’s fault is that?

    The other issue is that he is a SPARC employee at the end of the day. Now I think that Butler has thought that he has done a swift backroom deal because they end up only paying half of his salary, but to me the concerning issue is that SPARC is a bureaucratic political animal, known for flip-flopping on substantive issues of high performance sport (i.e the Ben Fouhy debacle), so how much more control of our sport has been released to Wellington?

    Does this have the support of the swimmer’s association? I would be interested in that.

    However, if the likes of swimmers like Kane Radford and Cara Baker get funded for their open water campaigns, then great. If Natalie Wiegersma and Gareth Kean and Hayley Palmer who are not part of the high performance centre, get equality of support, then great. If Mark Regan gets a free reign to do what he needs for his swimmers, then great.

    The proof is in the pudding, as they say, but if this is not a good appointment, then yet again, the catastrophic consequences on our swimmers leading into yet another Olympics doesn’t bear thinking about.

  • Chris

    BTW Jane – my expression “free reign” instead of “free rein” which is the more usual form, was intentional!

  • My Name is Ringo

    I think if Swimming South Africa has shown one thing about how to win medals at Olympics (of which they have quite a few since readmission) then it is to send your athletes to the best coaches around the world and not stick to an all eggs in one basket home based HP system.

  • Chris

    Mmm …

    What is interesting is that Mr Warley appears not to have “applied” for this job, but he was “seconded” to it by SPARC at SNZ’s (read Butler) request. I agree with Tom above that because of that he should be cut some slack as an individual. But I think that this carries some very obvious issues about process in this appointment.

    We all know that process in sport (as in other areas of life) is vitally important. We tell the swimmers all the time, that if the process is right then the outcomes will take care of themselves. I fear that in this instance we see the old hand of SNZ failure at work here.

    You would normally expect an appointment such as this to follow an open process of recruitment where applications are sought from suitably qualified candidates. We all knew and expected this to happen, it had been telegraphed for long enough that there was to be a Campaign Manager appointed (certainly Ineson’s strong recommendation in his report) and we were all waiting with bated breath to see some progress on this front. An advertised job vacancy in the usual industry circulars would have been the usual expectation, at the very least. This followed by the usual robust selection process including both the subjective and objective evaluation of prospective candidates based on experience, skills, cultural fit and other factors etc. Surely, reference checking should have formed a very important part of that because of the necessity for the successful candidate to have an ability to enter into an undisputed already fractured environment. Especially important here because of the very high profile and intense scrutiny the successful candidate would be subject to.

    Ah, you say, “but they needed to appoint someone quickly”. Yes, they did. But frankly, Coulter, Butler, Byrne, MacDonald have known for months that this needed to happen quickly. They knew that Cameron’s position was untenable, and to not have made provisions for her eventual resignation is plain incompetence. Surely in this situation, at the very least, you would appoint someone in an acting role, pending the formal process of recruitment being undertaken. No different to what they have Marty Toomey doing as the Acting CEO of the new High Performance Sport New Zealand, which is the new arm of SPARC and the Academy of Sport. That recruiting process of course resulted in Alec Baumann being secured as the new CEO which he begins in the New Year (I think). If they had done something similar, and let’s say that Mr Warley was appointed as Acting Campaign Manager pending the formal recruitment process, and if after that process he was still considered to be the best candidate, then … fair enough. But a process that is not “open and transparent” is just plain flawed from beginning to end.

    As I mentioned before, were the Swimming Association consulted about this, given that this affects their swimmers directly? Did Helen Norfolk and Ali Fitch have anything to do with this? Or is this just another Butler/Byrne stitch-up?

  • James T

    What the hell is going on? A simple internet search reveals background questions that must raise massive red flags about the suitability of Mr Warley in this particular role. Swimming South Africa had to have a full judicial enquiry, for goodness sake.

    I don’t know about you David, but reading through this, I ran out of ‘mental sticky notes’ where there were so many parallels to our own situation in this country.

    Can SNZ not make just one good decision? The lack of transparency is not just setting Mr Warley up for failure (bad enough) but potentially setting our swimmers up for failure. That is unforgivable.

    Let us just think about this. This comprehensive judicial enquiry report from South Africa displays uncanny similarities to matters reported on by Ineson so recently. Many of those failures were the result of organisational failure, as opposed to individual failure. Those failures (organisational) have still not been dealt with and are repeated in this appointment process. A candidate is appointed with obvious similar dispositions to the predecessor (Cameron) and yet the same lack of checks and balances disturbingly still exists.

    I fear this is another train wreck waiting to happen. I very much hope that I am wrong. But, It is very sad that we have to enter a new era in the knowledge that it is not really a new era at all.

    When will we ever see a decision from SNZ which meets even the most basic standards of competence? I would love for Swimwatch to be able to switch its focus to good swimming stories rather than critical analysis of organisational failure. Sadly, I do not sense that this appointment is going to make this happen anytime soon.

  • Tracy McGrath

    WHAT THE!!!!!!! My blood is boiling!!!!

    Mr Warley must have been cheap cheap cheap. Maybe desperately needed a job. Why he got this one is beyond me.

    There are many people in this country who could do that job standing on their heads.
    I hope that Mark Reagan and the rest of the coaches of our Olympians take their swimmers and protect them with everything they have got. If this Mr Warley steps out of line every member of the team needs to unite as one and run him out of town!

  • Sensible Swimming
    On the back end of the Ineson Report, yet again, a very questionable appointment. Sorry, Mr Toomey, but your justifications are just not cutting it. The biggest issue with swimmers that was brought out in the Ineson Report was the issue of a “culture of fear”. This surely was a time for you and SNZ to have been extremely cautious, but by being so dismissive of legitimate background concerns, it shows an acute misunderstanding of the seriousness of the swimmer’s issues raised by Ineson. This is quite simply a stunningly incompetent appointment.

    Something had to be done. No argument. But this has pure expedience written all over it, and is yet another Butler Band-Aid fix. Forget about getting the right decision, it just seems as if any decision will do. Whatever happened to advertising the position, going through the proper and appropriate recruitment process, and as mentioned above, I also would have no argument with the decision to appoint Rushdee Warley in an acting capacity pending the outcome of a robust recruitment process.

    But no, straight from the “School of Swimming New Zealand Management”, the same one that appointed the high school graduate Koru as the CEO, the despot Cameron, and the independent Ross Butler who has been a part of all the poor Board decisions including appointing him as the HP Committee Chairman when he hasn’t a clue about high performance sport, of any description, let alone swimming.

    For the sake of our swimmers, I wish Mr Warley well, and I hope that he indeed has qualities which exceed the competence of those who appointed him – which isn’t really asking a lot, is it?

  • Chris

    David, you have probably picked this up (and no doubt writing a piece as we speak):

    There has been a lot of talk pool deck this weekend but there is a bit of a lock-down as to more details. What is clear is that Mrs Radford has led a very smart campaign. And despite what Ross Butler is trying to suggest in this press release, in fact, it was her coalition that made all the running as far as bringing the parties to the table. It seems that they went directly to SPARC and suggested talks.

    What I had heard, and what was being fairly widely telegraphed was that SNZ were racing around the countryside trying to orchestrate as much trouble at the AGM as they possibly could, arranging to have clubs and parents and swimmers turn up to the AGM and giving them the floor. SNZ were apparently telling all and sundry that they were planning to legally challenge every single vote from the regional coalition and that they had no intention of having a democratic, orderly meeting.

    What I find interesting is that clearly something has happened, and it sounds to me like an independent review of the entire sport (i.e. like an Ineson Report for the whole sport, not just HP) is being undertaken. If it is independent (i.e. out of the hands of SNZ) then I think that this is good news. I have heard it on pool deck that the coalition is happy because this is something similar to what was done in rugby league a couple of years ago. Of course that resulted in the whole board having to step down at the end of the review and the CEO being replaced.

    Of course the press release would suggest that it was all Ross Butler’s idea in his attempts to appear all statesman-like. But I suspect that yet again, SNZ have been out manoeuvred.

  • St Germain

    It’s really ironic – the rest of the world appears to believe that South Africa has issues in the sporting arena, racial, political and or otherwise, and then there is that ever present FEAR aspect. Have the inhabitants on the planet become more like sheep, moving in flocks and content with the mundane? It would appear that NZ needs to do some laundry of it’s own in its sporting ranks, before being critical of an outsider brought in. Certainly there is such a thing as due process, but all commentary points to the premise that the culture of New Zealand (a generalization but in relation to the commentary relating to the article) is to believe the media, be judge and jury and prosecute without trial and continue to proliferate a perception of an individual, they themselves know absolutely nothing about. Nobody comes with a perfect portfolio, and if it were perfect, there should be cause for concern, that said – why not give the individual a chance at proving his worth and then decide. For all you know he may be just what is required.

  • James T

    St Germain, thank you. Your are right that we should withhold judgment on any individual.

    My issue is this. Mr Warley should never be put in the situation of effective “CV repair” and using our swimmers to do that. From all accounts he didn’t “apply” for this hospital pass, but having already secured his initial position with SPARC which by all accounts is a consulting role, and made the courageous move to migrate to New Zealand, there would be many who would applaud that decision, and good on him. My issue is most certainly not with Mr Warley, the person, nor the programme and regime that he left. Goodness knows our sport most certainly has, as you quite rightly point out, a hell of a lot of laundry of its own to do. My big concern is the lack of process, yet again, as if there wasn’t already huge issues around this very subject and our national body’s shortcomings concerning it.

    Again, it is breathlessly arrogant of Butler to have made such an appointment, whether or not the person had some “controversy” surrounding their previous employ. My issues would have still been the same if they had made any appointment, without due process, of anyone, including the likes of Sweetenham or Touretski. The issue is not about the person, but about the lack of process involved.

    If this is a good appointment, we will all, for our swimmer’s sake, be mightily relieved. If it is not, unfortunately, by the time we realise this, it will most certainly be far too late for our swimmers preparing for London and in fact most certainly further jeopardise their preparations.

    I hope that the former is correct, and not the latter.

  • St Germain

    Thank you James T – I can certainly see your concerns more clearly now, in view of your last commentary on the entire situation. The process and time frame certainly raises more than just a few concerns. To an outsider looking in it would appear that this would be a debauched form of crisis management. With London 2012, lying just on the horizon, I sincerely hope that SNZ makes every effort to support the swimmers, who ultimately, should be the key concern, over and above any of the internal structural and competency evils festering within its ranks. Boils eventually do burst, may it not be to the detriment of the athletes. Here’s hoping that your team of swimmers has the necessary motivation, passion and mindset leading up to and during London 2012.