Are They Thick Or What?

Last week a Swimwatch post highlighted the $5,300 fee Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is charging each of the eighteen swimmers selected to attend the 2018 World Short Course Championships in China. Several features made the fee particularly heinous.

  1. It is an appalling way for SNZ to show its support for a national team. The stain of SNZ affects us all.
  2. Compared to swimmers from other national teams New Zealand swimmers will be arriving as second class citizens. Imagine the shame of paying for the cap you wear to represent the country.
  3. While eighteen swimmers are each paying a huge fee of $5,300, six officials are having the full cost of their trip paid by SNZ. And we thought slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833.
  4. I can only hope that the eighteen swimmers on that airplane to China recognise they have been ripped off by the six officials sitting with them who are being fully funded by a disgusting decision of the SNZ Board. I hope the swimmers give the sport’s representatives, especially Gary Francis, the respect they deserve – none.
  5. At least one swimmer is having to resort to public fundraising in order to pay the SNZ fee. The others will fundraise or will rely on family and friends to finance the cost of representing our nation. For those who can help Emma Godwin, here is her “Give-a-Little” page.
  6. When compared with the extravagant wages paid to Johns and Francis and other inflated costs of SNZ’s administration, the World Championship travel fee demonstrates the most appalling set of values and use of public money.
  7. SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

It is the last of these points I want to highlight in this post – SNZ has become an object of derision around the world.

Without question charging this fee has brought SNZ into disrepute. That is not the swimmers’ fault. It is certainly not the fault of Swimwatch for reporting the fee. This one is all down to SNZ. It is the values and priorities of their Board and senior management that have led the sport to this stunning low. They frittered away the organisation’s financial reserves. They wasted money on ineffective executives and their costly perks. They employed a succession of expensive and unsuccessful foreign coaches. For twenty years they pursued a failed centralised training policy. They allowed a once proud and stand-alone sport to become a state welfare beneficiary. Their record is pathetic failure heaped upon pathetic failure.

The financial plight of eighteen good New Zealand swimmers has brought SNZ’s chickens home to roost. If the Swimwatch analytics data is to be believed the reaction has been embarrassing, serious and worldwide.

In twenty-four hours the story has been read 501 times. That is about twice the readership of a normal Swimwatch story. Readers have come from 24 countries. The table below shows the top five of those countries.

Country Number of Readers in First 24 Hours Percent of Total
New Zealand 388 77.60%
United States 31 6.20%
Australia 24 4.80%
United Kingdom 11 2.20%
Canada 6 1.20%

Twenty-four countries in twenty-four hours is a pretty broad readership. Clearly the plight of New Zealand’s best swimmers has struck a nerve around the world. Clearly SNZ is receiving the opprobrium it deserves.

The quality of the critics has also been significant. Take Rhi Jeffrey for example. Before I had anything to do with Rhi’s coaching she won an Olympic Gold Medal as part of the USA relay team at the Athens’ Olympic Games. She also won a couple of Gold Medals at the Barcelona World Championships. She was a very classy swimmer; strong and powerful, with a wonderful feel of the water and a deadly approach to competition. Today Rhi is the Head Coach of the Cannonball Club in the USA. It is a lucky club indeed who has someone of her knowledge and ability coaching their team. But her other quality – Rhi is no one’s fool. In fact she’s as sharp as a tack. That’s what makes her interesting and her views worth serious consideration. Here is her reaction on Facebook to the SNZ user pays story.

Rae RaeYesterday at 3:51 AM ·

Guys, the NZ World Championship Swim Team is being told they need to pay $5,300 a piece out of pocket to compete at Worlds. THIS. IS. APPALLING. While their staff members get free rides, the athletes are being forced to resort to GoFundMe pages to help raise funds. DISGUSTING!!! SHAME ON YOU SWIMMING NZ!!!!

SNZ are way braver or more stupid than me. When they do something that elicits this reaction from someone like Rhi they should be very concerned. In this case that appears to be exactly what they have done. Oh, SNZ will hide away down here in the bottom of the world. Things will move on. Johns and Francis will continue to prosper at the expense of the membership. But SNZ need to recognize their actions have brought the sport into disrepute, literally around the world. They have earned the condemnation of the sport’s finest swimmers. To quote Rhi, “Shame on you Swimming NZ.”

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