Why Are We Always Bloody Last?

Here is why I get pissed off at Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). For months now the swimming world has been changing. Professionalism is on its way. The International Swimming League (ISL) under the guidance of Russian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin is either pushing FINA into the 21st century or is threatening to leave the world body without a sport to run. Best of all, the ISL effort at reform is backed by some top class swimmers. Clearly names like Adam Peaty, Cameron van der Burgh, Chad Le Clos, Emily Seebohm, Frederica Pellegrini, Femke Heermskerk, Katinka Hosszu, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Sarah Sjostrom, Simone Manuel, Tom Shields and a dozen others are fed up with the FINA slave/master relationship and have joined the ISL revolution. When the time is right Eyad will certainly join that list.

It is bad enough that Cotterill, Johns and Francis sit in Antares Place, on their over-paid fat bums, doing nothing while the swimming world changes around them. It is bad enough that they appear too stupid to see that the ISL is working to make life better for every swimmer who puts on a competitive swim suit. It is bad enough that they accept flights around the world paid for by SNZ and charge swimmers a fortune for the same thing.

But what is beyond belief, what is inexcusable, is their apparent blind ignorance of world events.

Here is how Craig Lord reported the current position on the SwimVortex Facebook page.

Britain is one of more than 15 leading swimming nations that have defied global swim bosses and deliberately breached outdated rules by backing a breakaway International Swimming League (ISL) in its struggle to end the monopoly of their sport by FINA.

Reflecting a mood for change far and wide among FINA member nations who know that the constitution of the international federation is now out of step with European Union anti-trust laws on competition (members cannot engage with or have “any kind of relationship with a non-affiliated … body”), a spokesperson for British Swimming backs Adam Peaty and moves to engage with the wider sports audience when it tells The Sunday Times: “We have been talking to our swimmers, coaches and their agents as well as LEN, FINA, ISL and other countries. Swimming is a great sport and we are supportive of innovation to increase the profile both of our swimmers and swimming events.

Citing constitutional rules that the European Union’s Competition Authority has outlawed, the international swimming federation this month used threats of suspension to force the cancellation of a League test event scheduled for Turin on the cusp of Christmas. Adam Peaty, Britain’s most decorated swimmer, led a call for swimmers to back the ISL and its plans to pay the first professional wages – of more than $1m “within five to eight years” – in the sport and help to unionise swimmers.

For months Swimwatch has pushed SNZ to join the ISL reform initiative. The expression used a dozen times is that New Zealand should “join the Grigorishin train”. But did SNZ listen? Of course not. I doubt that Cotterill, Johns and Francis even understand what’s going on. And if they did, I doubt they would be brave enough to do anything about it. They sit around in the $70,000 offices, paid their $100,000 plus salaries apparently oblivious to the most important forces about to take over the sport. Instead of seizing the opportunity to make a real difference to the sport of swimming, instead of publically leading what is now a crusade of 15 swimming nations, instead of doing something that could really benefit Daniel Hunter, Simon Perry, Emma Godwin and a score of others – they spend their time illegally, in my view, redacting the report into the investigation into my coaching or making life difficult for a Syrian refugee to complete a IOC Application or charging swimmers $5,300 to represent the country or drinking coffee for hours in the Millennium Wholefood Café. Talk about a waste of space. In my opinion the three of them are negligent beyond belief. Father, Son and Holy Ghost just bloody disgusting.

But it is not too late. Fifteen nations have “joined the Grigorishin train”. If Johns can tear himself away from obstructing the report into my coaching, New Zealand could join the world movement, as nation number 16. We should be there. It is important. The future of swimming is being played out in our absence. How the sport will look for generations to come is being decided right now. Sadly, because of stupidity, incompetence, cowardice or willful neglect, New Zealand does not have a chair at the table. Our future is being decided in our absence. It is not good enough.

But more than not good enough, this waste is a classic demonstration of why the performance of swimming has declined so badly through the last decade. Instead of addressing the big decisions that have a material effect on the sport, SNZ bureaucrats wander about blindly sticking their noses into stuff that others do far better. Instructing learn-to-swim teachers for example; coaching competitive swimmers another example.

In the meantime SNZ’s primary responsibility of creating the environment in which the sport of swimming can grow and prosper lies abandoned. Well SNZ, the swimming environment is about to change at a hundred miles an hour. Soon you are not going to be there to be part of it. We suggest you do your job. We suggest you catch the train before it runs you over.

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