Failures, Contradictions & Excuses

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has now resorted to national television news in an effort to “sell” the Francis Plan. We have discussed many times aspects of the Plan that make it the same as the old central training centre policy. But let’s repeat the features that have not changed. The table below lists the identical features; features that mean the two policies are the same and will fail because of their matching faults.

  • Both policies involve the national federation picking winners – a policy long since discarded by the rest of the world.
  • Both policies encourage an unhealthy “them and us” ranking in the sport.
  • Both policies allow for the continuation of the SNZ central training group.
  • Both policies deny benefits to swimmers training overseas.

Gary Francis is quoted on a TV3 news item as saying, “Now a new program is in place. A new support system will create a team of 12 in Paris in 2024 with all 12 expected to place in top 16.” Clearly the intent is to repeat the word “new” often enough and perhaps it will be believed. The fact it is a bald-faced lie is of no consequence to them.

But what gets me about the TV3 News item is its defeatist tone. I have said before that Che Guevara and Churchill leadership skills are not the first things that spring to mind when Gary Francis creeps into the room. This news report confirms that point. Two years out from the Tokyo Games Francis is telling the world, “results have evaded SNZ in recent years and we are not going to win medals in 2020”. Already the parent body has gone on national television news and run up the white flag of surrender.

There are two important aspects of their capitulation. First Johns and Francis are each paid excessive salaries to fix problems now, not to admit defeat on national Television. Do your bloody jobs and that does not include sitting around for six years waiting for the 2024 Games. It would be the easiest search in the world to find a dozen quotes from SNZ Head Office staff pleading for time, not to the next Games but the ones after that. This Antares Place lot are NO different from all the others. The reasons they do it are not difficult to find. First they have no idea how to turn the ship around. They live in hope that in six years a “Road to Damascus” miracle may save them. And second they are, in my opinion, cowards desperate to hold onto their cushy pay packets for as long as possible. For them the difference between two and six years is the difference between $300,000 and $900,000 in their personal bank account. Get HPSNZ to agree to a 2024 plan and Francis and Johns can feed at the SNZ trough for an extra four years.

And second, I’m certain very good swimmers like Main, Hunter, Perry, Fa’amausili, Smith and Robinson must have watched that program in despair. They must be feeling energised and uplifted today ready to attack the swimming world. You’d wait a long time to see Gary Francis or Steve Johns lead Leicester City to the Premier Championship or Snell to an Olympic Gold Medal from 24th in the world. Gary Francis is no Claudio Ranieri or Arthur Lydiard. If Francis does not believe in New Zealand’s best swimmers, and he doesn’t, why should the swimmers even try? The damage SNZ has caused this sport is beyond measure. This news broadcast continues that destruction – but what would you expect when swimming is all about them. And so, just for the record, I believe New Zealand has swimmers capable of winning medals in Tokyo. A good first step would be for Johns and Francis to stop mouthing off on television and let people who do know what they are doing get on with it. And a second even better step would be for them both to find something different to do with their time.

Finally, and on a personal note, I do not understand the contradiction between what Francis said last night and anything said here on Swimwatch for the past eight years. Last night Francis said this:

“We’ve got to be realistic. We are not showing any evidence that we are going to win medals in 2020,” “We can’t keep sending swimmers and not have them make semi-finals,” he said “We`re no longer carrying passengers – everybody is got to be in the front seat and driving.”

There we have it – a confession from the top. SNZ admitted on national TV news that they have been selecting swimmers unable to qualify for semi-finals. For years, SNZ now accept, it has been carrying passengers. Wow, and not only has SNZ made those, now admitted errors in the past, Francis went on to tell us that in two year’s time we could expect results to be just as bad. That’s pretty rough.

But someone needs to explain to me why I received a petty tantrum email from Steve Johns for Swimwatch comments not half as derogatory or insulting as those made by Francis on national television news. Remember what Johns said about Swimwatch:

Sadly however, I suspect that for you its too easy just to put pen to paper, write whatever pops into your head and not be interested in the negative impact that you have on people’s lives.  If you think your little blogs and constant attacks are helping swimming in NZ, then you are seriously mistaken – or is it just a fun little game you like to play?

If Swimwatch has had a negative impact on people’s lives I hate to think what the Francis’ blatant assault on New Zealand’s best swimmers did last night. SNZ will dress it up as a moment of honesty. But it was instead dishonest vandalism. And it was not true. It seems it’s time for Steve Johns to email Gary Francis, with the same email he sent to me, and explain that, “If he thinks a petty assault on TV News is helping swimming in NZ, then he is seriously mistaken.”

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