Are We Being Ripped Off?

By David

First a confession; the figures I’m using to make this case are vague and may be far from accurate. For that reason I will explain how they were arrived at and leave you to decide.

As many readers will know Swimming New Zealand has just introduced a new way of entering swim meets. It’s called “The Swimming New Zealand Membership Database”. There is a “big brother”, “animal farm” feel about most of what Swimming New Zealand do these days. When everyone’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number and financial membership record are held at the Millennium Institute it provides them with a lot of control. Just ask the American FBI, CIA and the NSA (did you see John Key took a secret trip to that bastion of individual freedom last week) and in New Zealand the GCSB. Why else were they so concerned about the revelations of Edward Snowden? While I have a degree of dislike for that sort of central control, if Renford and Miskimmin want to know my phone number, address and date of birth they are welcome.

However, I have no doubt that the new system will eventually end up costing every region, club and swimmer more money. How else are Lyles, Renford and Villanueva going to be kept in the Mazda style to which they must have become accustomed? It has to be paid for by someone and that’s where you come in. Even the much touted centralized meet entry is going to cost every club and region in the country. That much is certain. But how much is where the estimating comes in.

In 2013 the Take Your Marks website tells me there were 364 swim meets in New Zealand; an easy number to remember – almost an average of one a day. There is a huge variation in the number of entries in each meet. Small meets such as an Auckland Level 3 meet may have only 200 entries at $5.00 per entry. Larger meets can have 1000 entries at $7.50 per entry. A recent meet in Cambridge had 700 entries at $7.00 per entry. A 2014 Matamata meet had 950 entries at $6.50 per entry. So what’s the average? Well your guess is as good as mine.

I am going to go with 780 entries at $6.75 per entry. If that’s roughly right and the number of meets is 364 per year, the club’s and regions of Swimming New Zealand are going to pay the Millennium Institute office of Swimming New Zealand $1,916,460 in entry fees each year.

Now there is, of course, a time value to that money. In other words it earns interest. I think it’s fair to assume there will be at least a two months lag between Swimming New Zealand receiving your money and paying it back to its rightful owners. From the stories I’ve been told two months may be way too generous. However, if it is two months, Swimming New Zealand will have a permanent entry fees bank deposit of $319,410 at any one time.

That deposit will earn interest that Swimming New Zealand will keep; interest that normally, under the old entry system, would be earned by a club or a region. My guess is Swimming New Zealand will earn 4.8% interest per annum on your money.

In other words, if these figures are correct, Swimming New Zealand will be taking an extra $15,332 per year, or about one third of a new Mazda, out of the collective pocket of every club and region in the country. And my guess, with this lot, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Remember these are the guys who decided to charge every official that helped out at a swim meet an annual membership fee. Service charges, administration fees and membership tax are just around the corner. Sure, the first $15,332 has gone. But that is just the tip of the financial iceberg.

At those monthly telephone conference calls the SNZ Chairman, Brent Layton, holds with the regional Chairs does anyone ask Layton about the organization’s usury? Or is it all just servile gratitude for the generosity of a phone call? One of the best swim coaches in New Zealand is Gary Martin from Gisborne. He was appointed the Team Manager of the NZ Oceania Championship team. It seemed to me far too much of his time in Auckland was spent trotting out to get SNZ coaches hot cups of coffee. A man of his calibre has bigger things to address, especially in the joke called Swimming New Zealand. Perhaps the Chairman’s conference call has also become coffee time.

And what do you get for your $15,332. Well, you are getting Project Vanguard whether you like it or not. The old Swimming New Zealand tried to sell you this stuff and failed. Remember the Project Vanguard road show that toured the country and cost you half a million dollars. Well the Swimming New Zealand of Miskimmin, Layton and Renford don’t need to sell you anything anymore. Chis Moller’s constitution means they can charge what they like and do what they like.

You are going to pay Swimming New Zealand to enter the same meets at the same time as you always have. Another layer of bureaucracy has been installed – that’s all. And, before the other charges still to come, it’s already costing you $15,332 per annum.

I do so look forward to the day when I hear of my club getting anything from the Millennium office of Swimming New Zealand. One of our swimmers recently swam for her country in the Oceania Championships. And what did she get from Swimming New Zealand? An invoice for $1000 to pay for everything – even her bloody cap. She swam for her country and had to buy her own New Zealand cap. What have we become?

You will have realized by now that the $15,332 does not surprise me. It’s the way this sport and this Board (that’s Layton, McKee, Power, Hunt, Cotterill and Brown) believe things should be done. It meets perfectly their understanding of the meaning of good management. Time will prove them wrong. But by then two generations of young New Zealand swimmers will have been lost paying for the excess of the Millennium folly. The sooner swimming members take back control of the sport of swimming the better – and you will be $15,332 better off.

PS: A Swimming New Zealand member, who was aware I was writing this story, has just sent me an email asking whether SNZ has considered the GST implications of having all the clubs wanting to enter a meet pay Swimming New Zealand and two months later SNZ pay the club hosting the meet. Is GST going to be charged and paid twice: once by the attending clubs for entering the meet and once by SNZ for its stunning service. Does the net result mean the IRD gets twice as much (2×15%) and the hosting club gets 15% less or does the cost of entering every swim meet have to go up by 15% to cover the extra lot of GST involved in the SNZ transaction? I hope not. Overnight the cost of entering swim meets in New Zealand would go up by $287,469 per year.

I sure am no accountant. I have to believe SNZ has sorted out something as simple as that. Perhaps the SNZ transaction is an exempt financial service. But then again, who knows? Funnier things have happened.