It’s Been A Long Time Coming

Believers will view the Swimwatch call for the Swimming New Zealand Board to stand down as intolerable rebellion, as the rantings of a lunatic fringe. But is it? Swimming New Zealand and its supporters will spin the barren wasteland of New Zealand competitive swimming as a temporary bump in the road. They will pray that Corey Main in Florida saves their embarrassment just as Lauren Boyle once did. They will point to exciting junior championships and a string of age group records as proof that all is well, international success is within our grasp, they will say. But is it?

So what are the facts? Is the call for a new Board unreasonable? Is international success close at hand? In my view the call for new elections is entirely reasonable. Swimming is miles away from international success. Let me explain why.

Events that led to the disaster of having no swimmers qualify for the Commonwealth Games in the recent trials and only two swimmers qualify from their swims in the World Championships have been staring Swimming New Zealand Board members in the face for three, maybe four years. Through all that time Swimming New Zealand was Glenn Snyders and Lauren Boyle and nothing else. Those two swimmers were the best and worst that could happen to the sport; the best because their international performances were genuinely world class; the worst because the board of Swimming New Zealand could trumpet their success in the media and to the sport’s funders and ignore the malaise behind them.

And that is what the Board of Swimming New Zealand did. You only need to read the headlines from the Swimming New Zealand website over the past three years.

Boyle has solid hit-out towards Glasgow at Mare Nostrum

Podium Finish for Boyle in Successful World Cup Campaign

Boyle wins at FINA World Cup in Doha

Brilliant Boyle lights up pool in Sydney

Boyle blitzes competition in Dubai World Cup

I Can Go Faster – says Boyle

Lauren Boyle continues on her winning way

Lauren Boyle – New Zealand’s best swimmer at the Olympic

I trolled back through the Swimming New Zealand headlines and in six years there were about 540 articles that trumpeted the swimming feats of Boyle or Snyders or both, an average of close to two per week. Of course there is nothing wrong with enjoying and reporting the success of two very good swimmers. The problem was that the Board of Swimming New Zealand hid behind their 540 headlines. As Boyle and Snyders grabbed the headlines, problems that should have been addressed were ignored, problems that when Boyle and Snyders retired have come home to roost.

Any business that relies on an aging product line and fails to plan for the next generation will have similar problems to Swimming New Zealand. Many businesses have failed for exactly that reason. Kodak had to prepare for cameras that did not require film. Video Ezy are going to have to find an alternative to film rentals. Cannon need to diversify from manufacturing fax machines. Spark needed to move on from providing New Zealand’s telephone landlines. And four years ago Swimming New Zealand needed to move on from providing Boyle and Snyders. And the Board simply did not identify the danger and did nothing about it. And for that basic business irresponsibility and negligence they should not be there.

Especially as they were told.

As far back as December 2014 Swimwatch asked, “What is Swimming New Zealand saying? We couldn’t prepare Lauren Boyle properly so let us loose on the careers of Bobbi Gichard and others. If they are, it is sad and it is pathetic. Swimming has to be under pressure, though Boyle is keeping them afloat.”

And in August of the same year, “I think Boyle cares way too much about many of those who have just used her career to purchase a better Mazda. With the exception of Lauren Boyle it’s never been much worse than in 2014 in Glasgow and Brisbane. Twin disasters, half a world apart and within a month of each other; who would believe it was possible?”

The signs of impending disaster have been clear for such a long time. The Board were repeatedly told. The Board did nothing to resolve the problem. Those three facts point directly at a Board that is as guilty as hell. That incompetent neglect over such an extended period would never be tolerated in the commercial world. And should not be tolerated in sport.

For those reasons the call for the Board to stand down is not intolerable or rebellious. It is simple commercial reality. The Board member I think should stay is Perry. I don’t know him. I don’t even know anyone who does know him. But my feeling is that he is aware reform is needed and has been trying to do the right thing. Certainly his promotion of the “Clive Power Plan” was a step forward. Nothing he does seems to be working. But that’s probably not his fault. The others though have fiddled while Rome has burned and should be replaced.

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