See Evil, Hear Evil, Speak Evil

Two previous Swimwatch posts have discussed corruption in New Zealand sport. Both have been posted online and sent as submissions to Sport NZ’s integrity survey. In the submissions we have argued that ethical problems in New Zealand sport begin at the top. We have highlighted constitutional conditions that have been manipulated in order to provide Peter Miskimmin, the CEO of Sport NZ, with dictatorial powers.

Peter Miskimmin will not like the submissions. He is not interested in discussing corruption at the top of New Zealand sport. What he wants is to hear about a coach who drinks beer on a European tour or a coach who pushes half a dozen hockey players to work harder or a tough rowing coach who takes no prisoners or a soccer coach who insists on tactics that his players don’t like. Like all bullies Miskimmin is looking to deflect blame onto the weak. But that page three of the Sun gossip is trivial compared to the threat posed by Miskimmin’s bad behaviour. Coaches and managers affect a few players. Miskimmin’s behaviour infects the whole of New Zealand sport.

A disregard of ethical behaviour at the top sets an environment where anything goes. If the guy at the top cheats, what’s wrong with following his example? If the guy at the top lies, why shouldn’t we lie too? And that is what has happened. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) and other NSOs diligently follow Miskimmin’s example. The balance of this report will discuss three examples of bad behaviour. I will call them see evil, hear evil and speak evil.

See Evil

The most blatant case of the athlete abuse occurs in the area of pay. Miskimmin has created a structure that rewards bureaucrats at the expense of athletes. I will use Dame Valerie Adams as an example. But the principle of master and slave occurs across New Zealand sport. It is classic abuse.

Adams has won two Olympic Gold Medals, one Olympic Bronze Medal, eight World Championships, three Commonwealth Games Gold Medals and two Commonwealth Games Silver Medals. It would be hard to find a record better than hers in any sport, anywhere in the world. Her reward from Peter Miskimmin is $60,000 a year.

You may think that’s not too bad, but compare Adams $60,000 to the Sport NZ employees sitting in offices, drinking coffee, living off the efforts of Adams and Walsh out in the “cotton fields”. Miskimmin pays himself $400,000; a value seven times greater than Valerie Adams. But it gets far worse than that. Below Miskimmin, Sport NZ employs another 60 minions who are each paid more than twice what Valerie Adams receives. But it does not stop there. In addition to the 61 staff paid multiple times more than Adams, another 29 staff are paid at least 60% more than the worlds most decorated athlete.

If anyone can explain to me how that is not exploitation, I’d like to hear it. Ninety staff in a small government sports department are paid many times more than Valerie Adams. It is rotten to the core. Those ninety staff cost New Zealand sport about $11.5 million a year – the cost of 190 Valerie Adams.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

Hear Evil

But it is not only in pay that the master-slave relationship in New Zealand sport appears. SNZ bureaucrats are also looking after themselves big time. The CEO Steve Johns flies to Japan to attend a meeting that could have easily been done on Skype. I bet there was no user-pays in that junket. I’d love to know if he flew business class and whether his trip included the perk of the Air New Zealand First Class lounge. Gary Francis is off to China for the World Short Course Championships in a month. There is absolutely no reason for him to be going to that meet. He is a surplus hanger-on. But his airfare is being fully funded by SNZ. No user-pays when it comes to the Antares Place gang.

Not only that. The fare being paid by SNZ is a thousand dollars per person more than it should be because Francis and his administration mates won’t fly in a Chinese airline.

Now compare that to the sixteen swimmers who are going to China to represent New Zealand. They each have to find $5,300 to pay their own way. They have to personally pay $1,000 extra to fly on Air New Zealand because Francis and his mates don’t like Chinese airplanes. They have to get money from family and friends in order to keep Francis and Johns in a job. Emma Godwin showed surprising initiative by opening a “Give-a-Little” page. What that means is the public are being expected to do what Francis and Johns are not.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

Speak Evil

I have mentioned before the dispute I am currently having with SNZ. Sometime ago a disgruntled swimmer complained about my coaching. Her complaint included some pretty vile accusations. SNZ decided an investigation was necessary and employed a criminal psychotherapist to conduct hearings. Prior to attending the hearings I was assured, by the CEO of SNZ, that I would receive a copy of the Report.

The hearings lasted three days. I think I was able to convince the investigator that the accusations were a load of lies. I was told a Report would be prepared and sent to SNZ. After that I waited and waited to receive my copy. It never came. Finally I asked SNZ for a copy. Steve Johns refused my request. I filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner and that is where the matter lies today. We will shortly hear what the Privacy Commissioner makes of an accused not being allowed to read the result of his trial. We will see what the Privacy Commissioner makes of promises made and not kept.

Without question the SNZ disregard for justice, their contempt for the rights of their members and their stunning self-importance have their source at the highest levels of New Zealand sport. Steve Johns’ arrogant refusal to comply with the most basic human right and his wilful disregard for a promise made are classic consequences of the environment created in New Zealand sport. They reflect badly on the character of the individuals involved.

It is wrong. It is exploitation. It is corrupt. And it begins at the top.

While the gossip about coaches drinking and yelling at athletes may have more appeal to those who inhabit the gutter, the things we have spoken about here are more relevant and important. Any grass roots reform will require a clean-out at the top.

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