What About This For An Idea?

By David

What is going to replace the current Board? There is no point in overturning the regime in power unless there is a plan for what comes next. First of all though, the revolution has to be successfully concluded. To do that the approaching Annual General Meeting has to be totally ineffective. Participating in the Annual Meeting with the current Board only makes the Coalition complicit in their existence. Approving their budget, passing their remits, progressing their Project Vanguard and voting for two new Board members acknowledges and endorses their right to exist.

It is messy, but the 2011 Annual General Meeting has to fail. Either the Regions just don’t turn up and the meeting falls over for a lack of a quorum or the Coalition votes down every measure proposed. Nothing gets passed. This Board has forfeited the right to govern. This Annual General Meeting must clearly demonstrate the member’s endorsement of that point.

Then a Special General Meeting should to be called to elect a new Board. Six members get elected and two are appointed. The Special General Meeting has to make sure there is a discernable change. The new Board has to be a new broom. It cannot be a different eight members of the old guard. That won’t change anything. For example I would not have David Jack, Neville Sutton or Brett Naylor anywhere near a new Board. They may not be responsible for the current Board’s mistakes but they have a history of involvement in the structural shambles we have on our hands today. There are a dozen other individuals like them – who worshipped Jan Cameron, who appointed Mike Byrne and created the environment that has ruined swimming in New Zealand.

Here are the eight souls I’d have on the new Board. My vote is probably the last thing any of them would want. However I did vote for Margret Thatcher and illegally contributed $100 to Obama’s election campaign. I also voted for Helen Clarke at one election and plan to give John Key my vote in this one. So, there have been a few winners in my past.

Bronwen Radford for President. The public face of the revolution has to lead it into power. She has shown courage, tenacity, honesty and endurance. She has the stuff leaders are made of. One day Swimming New Zealand should sell t-shirts with her face printed on the front.

Maria Clarke for Vice President. Clarke is a sports lawyer and member of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. She’s as sharp as a tack and has an IQ that’s better than most of us. She would make sure some of the tricky deals that the Coulter gang specialize in, never happen again. She’d also be well suited for keeping Kerry McDonald in line.

Bill Garlick for Board member. Garlick is an ex-President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. He is a visionary. That quality may have got him into some trouble in the past but would be well valued on a new Board. New ideas would not be in short supply with Garlick around.

Dick Quax for Board member. Quax is an Auckland Super City councillor, a 5000 meters track world record holder and an Olympic Silver medallist, also in the 5000 meters. He too is as sharp as a tack. He understands sport. He knows what works. He has seen the top of the sporting tree and knows what you need to do to get there.

Mark Weldon for Board member. Weldon was one of New Zealand’s best swimmers and is now hugely successful in business. He is an interesting and rare blend of deep swimming knowledge and commercial acumen. I don’t know him personally but he seems to be a person you’d call a progressive; a quality this Board will need.

Nigel Soper for Board member. Soper is the Chairman of Southland Swimming. Southland Swimming is probably the most financially independent of all the New Zealand swimming Regions. Soper’s knowledge of the qualities required to achieve that status is important if SNZ is to move away from its current state of SPARC welfare dependency. Oh, and Soper also works for the Alliance Meat Company. For an ex-Borthwick employee like me that’s a huge plus.

Sir Michael Fay for Board member. I think there is merit in having a captain of New Zealand industry on the Board. Other contenders would be John Hart, Sir Stephen Tindall, John Banks and Geoff Ross. Sir Michael gets my vote because of his sporting credentials in beginning the dynasty of New Zealand’s America’s Cup competition but also his family’s deep involvement in the sport of swimming.

Wayne Rollinson for Board member. Rollinson is the Chairman of Swimming Canterbury. Equally compelling arguments could be made for Jim Swanson and Suzanne Speer from Auckland. I’d go for Rollinson because he adds a South Island perspective to the Board and he works for Silver Fern Farms – another freezing works veteran (only joking).

So there is the Board I think would move New Zealand Swimming forward. I guess the important point of all this is not the specific names. It is vital to recognize that there are many good people in New Zealand who are far better equipped to lead, than those who are failing us just now. It is time for a fresh start. Fortunately there are many fine New Zealanders who can provide the quality of management and direction this sport craves.

There are also two executive positions that need to be filled; a CEO to replace Mike Byrne and a Coaching Facilitator to replace Jan Cameron. There are four people I think would do a great job of being the sport’s new CEO – John Munro, Brian Palmer, Marisa Carter and Sarah Ulmer. Any one of them would be light years better than what we’ve got now. All of them will cost a lot of money – but isn’t that great. And finally – someone to replace the “irreplaceable” Jan Cameron. Well, that’s the easiest replacement of the lot. Whatever it cost, I’d get Mark Schubert down here. He is the ex-USA Swimming Head Coach. His swimmers have won more medals than most of us have had hot dinners. One fact in all this is guaranteed – Mark Schubert would never bring a New Zealand team home from an Olympic Games empty handed – not ever. Over the next four years he would weld every coach in New Zealand into a genuine “one team”. Schubert would help New Zealand’s coaches find another Danyon Loader. In fact being Schubert he’d probably help us find several Olympic winners – for that’s what winning coaches do.

  • Sharon

    What? No place for Koru? What about if Mr Cull gives him another 7 hours of executive training, would that make you think about it again David? He would be really really good then!

  • David

    I really think Koru has done his dash – in spite of Mr. Cull’s best efforts. I do wonder if Cull realizes how incredibly stupid his 7 hours tuition comment makes Koru look. Of course if Cull can produce a CEO in 7 hours, I’m thinking the Harvard Buisness School can’t wait for him to arrive.

  • Chris

    I love the Wish List – may as well start at the top!

    But you are absolutely right. Getting rid of the Board is only the beginning of what must be a well thought out process of change. While this Board is still in situ, Coulter, Byrne & Cameron still there, McDonald and Butler running the show, no-one in their right mind would want to go anywhere near this Board. However, with a complete clear-out, I suspect there would be many who would genuinely reconsider.

    I think you are also right about not having anyone from the past. There have been some fine people on past Boards but IMO there is no-one who can claim a monopoly on experience and expertise. As tempting as it may be for many, we must not revert backwards, otherwise we will always get what we always had. That is not a recipe for genuine change.

  • Old Boxer

    David, it’s been awhile since I’ve commented but I have been watching for the past few weeks with interest.

    There are critics of yours who do say (as you know) that you do not offer anything constructive. This post certainly counters that argument. I am not so sure the names on your list are as important as what they represent. In that regard your list represents a thought process of ‘anything less than the best is not good enough’. I like that. If you get the best people then it follows simply that you will get the best thinking and action. I like the balance that your suggestions reflect with people from within swimming, outstanding leaders in business and corporate governance together with people who have stellar sporting backgrounds. That just has an ‘if only’ feel to it but that is no bad thing. Why not?

    Beyond the board you make some employee suggestions. That of course presupposes that a new board would deal with the now toxic employment issues as you would expect. Obviously there are no vacancies today. I don’t know any of the people you mention so cannot comment on their particular suitability but I live the concept of someone such as Sarah Ulmer who has achieved at the highest level herself and now as I understand runs a successful enterprise of her own. I don’t know the others you mention but wouldn’t it be superb to attract someone like Mark Schubert. I love the boundless enthusiasm of this type of thinking. How do you think a foreign mentor of his type would be received or would our coaching community reject what he had to offer based on a view that somehow he is here gathering a pension at their expense and that there is no cultural connection?

    Sadly if any of the people you have mentioned were available for as yet non-existent vacancies I think the very fact that you have now mentioned them will be the equivalent of a public naming and shaming and that they may be rejected simply because that strident swimwatch guy mentioned them!

    I like the thinking – keep the good ideas coming! (sorry I did this post off my phone and your posting comment box does not make editing easy off a phone – if there are errors in what I have posted I apologize to all.)

  • Sharon

    Harvard Business School can’t wait for who? Koru or Cull? Or both? They can have both if they like.

  • Rhi Jeffrey

    But I thought Swimwatch didn’t post any recommendations on how to fix the problem…. :) Schubert would be a great asset to you guys (and I’m not just saying that because I swam for the guy for three years). He REALLY knows what he’s doing. He is one of the greatest coaches in swimming history. Also, HELL YA BRIAN PALMER FOR CEO! Can I get that on a t-shirt somewhere?

  • Northern Swimmer

    Although it would be unconstitutional I would put the sport into a position akin to statutory management, and have either Bill Sweetenham or Chris Ineson put in a position to introduce their reports and recommendations in such a way to develop a strong structure for our sport. I envisage that this would run for two years at which point a completely fresh board would be elected.

    Mark Weldon would lead my wish list of new board members, although I understand he is presently very busy with efforts to rebuild Canterbury. As others to consider I would suggest Ross Anderson, Rick Wells, and Nick Tongue as they have all succeeded in and out of the pool and retain an interest in the sport.

    I also think that there should be a recent athlete on the board and suggest that Beijing Olympians Liz Coster, Helen Norfolk, Willy Benson, Mark Herring and Cameron Gibson have the credentials to make fine board members.

    While it is nice to dream, it must be remembered that, like most aspects of our sport, these are essentially voluntary positions. The majority of people in such roles have either become involved because of children involved in the sport – Murray Coulter’s daughter used to compete; Humphrey Pullon, David Jack and Bronwen Radford all have sons currently competing; or they have become involved as they want to give something back to the sport that has given so much to them – Alison Fitch and Dominic Toomey are both recently retired competitors serving on the current board.

    There are many good people out there, who would make fine board members, however this cannot happen unless they are nominated. So please, Regions, find those would would make decent candidates and ask them to stand.

    My final recommendation is that which is so obvious to all swimwatch readers and contributors (Molly and Koru excluded) – Mr David Wright.

  • David

    Northern Swimmer – OMG you are priceless. That’s the best laugh I’ve had in a long, long time. I do hope Swimming New Zealand don’t know where you live. I have a feeling a large fully laden Stealth B2 aircraft is about to be despatched in your direction. In the interests of your personal saftey, I am best employed looking after the swimming careers of Rhi, Jess, Jane, Justin, Erica, Abigail, Zane and a few dozen others. Thank you for the thought though.

  • Chris

    David … no one from Wellington??

  • David

    Chris – Sir Michael Fay was educated at New Zealand’s best University located in Wellington (Victoria). In fact we both graduated in the same year. His high school was St Pats, whereas mine was the hugely superior Wellington College – at least for one year it was. That’s possibly as close to a Wellington conection as we should allow.

  • Chris

    Quite right – but remind me again why the sport’s headquarters are in Wellington?

  • Hannah

    Hi. I have been reading this site for a while now… all very interesting, and I am glad I am observing from a safe distance. I am impressed with the wish list; they all look like they would be excellent candidates. With the exception of one, the only one I am really familiar with: Brian Palmer. As his daughter, I can categorically tell you that he is uninterested in the CEO position. I am sure that will make some happy (myself included). Good thing you have three other options!

  • David

    Hannah – good to hear from you – although I despair a little at the contents of your message. Perhaps you could work on him for us all. Hope things are good in the USA.