The more I think about it the worse it gets. That tripe Raelene Castle served up yesterday as her response to the death of Olivia Podmore. What did Castle come up with as her best shot at ensuring Podmore did not die for nothing? Two committees, a women’s health person and a better computer – is her answer. Well, that is not nearly enough – not by half it is not.

Yesterday’s charade screamed of, “We can fix ourselves. We can fix ourselves. Leave it to us. We will form two committees, hire a health person and buy a bigger computer – oh, and we will call all that a 10-point action plan”.

Castle’s organisation financed the killing of a fine New Zealand sporting talent. Two committees, a health person and a bigger computer isn’t going to fix that. Castle and HPSNZ are clinging onto their now deadly power. Their every action is aimed at self-preservation. Their committees, their health recruit and their computer are not protecting the next Olivia Podmore. Yesterday’s farce was all about building a Siegfried Line of defense around Raelene Castle and her overpaid minions.  

It is critical for sport to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable conduct. Castle’s conduct has not been acceptable. She didn’t ramraid a jewellery store. Castle’s organisation smashed a person. She needs to be punished for that. Perhaps not personally, but her organisation has demonstrated they cannot manage the responsibility of the power they have gathered. For that their wings need to be clipped.

Only when I see that happen will I acknowledge Olivia Podmore’s memory has made a material difference. Three “action plan” points must happen.

·        Abandon the centralised training policy.

·        Introduce fully democratic board elections

·        Negotiate to form a “real” trade union affiliated to the NZ Council of Trade Unions.

But two committees, a health recruit and a new computer do not get anywhere near those sorts of reform. Changes as a result of the travesty of Podmore, Fisher, Thompson and others have to reduce HPSNZ’s power – not increase the empire like this 10-point sham attempts to do.

You see, the natural reaction of every dictator is to use problems as an opportunity to increase power. In Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister has a problem, so he makes himself President. In Russia, Putin takes over Crimea and now he wants Ukraine. Hitler wanted Poland and then the rest of Europe. Castle, on a far more modest level, has the same instincts. How can I use this set of circumstances to increase my empire, to make me more powerful?

Castle has no understanding that it was her army that invaded Podmore. It is her army that needs to get out of sport’s way. But, oh no, her Putinesque reaction is, “Give me a bigger army, give me more power and I will fix the “Podmore Problem” – because yes, that’s the way she sees it – as a problem and an opportunity..

With Castle in charge, New Zealand sport has a problem all right, and it is not Olivia Podmore. Sport New Zealand and HPSNZ are going to get bigger and bigger. Power is going to become more and more centralised. The very lifeblood of what made New Zealand sport punch above its weight is going to be sucked dry. The entrepreneurial spirit that gave us Jelley and Lydiard and Podmore and Fisher is being crushed by Raelene Castle.

In World War 2 British and American troops invaded Germany while singing the song, “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line”. New Zealand needs a bit of that spirit to liberate sport from our version of a dictatorship. Especially when the best Castle can do is produce this 10-point bucket of swill. Sport in New Zealand is in a dark place just now. Cutting back on Castle’s power is the solution. To quote another World War 2 song, “There will be fun and laughter and peace ever after” when her ruinous presence is “blown away”.

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