Good Old-Fashioned Gossip

By David

You may wonder what going to a swim meet, clearing emails, having breakfast in a quiet Glen Eden café, reading text messages and even strolling through the Henderson Mall have in common. Well, this past week they have provided good old fashioned gossip. Most readers will know that gossip is notoriously unreliable. When it involves the new Swimming New Zealand, you must add – and almost impossible to confirm.

Therefore, to let you know the sort of things I’ve been hearing, I will put what I’ve been told in the form of a series of questions. That way Swimming New Zealand can drop Swimwatch a short email confirming their validity or otherwise.

  1. Is it true that Dr Who and the other new owners of Swimming New Zealand are shifting the Head Office again? This time to Auckland. If it is, the money spent playing musical offices is immoral. I can’t remember every location but, during my time in swimming, my guess is Swimming New Zealand has had six homes; the Dominion Building, the new Wellington City Council Building, the Water Safety New Zealand Office, Pelorus House, the Millennium Institute in Auckland and, when I lived in Florida, another place somewhere in central Wellington.
  2. Is it true that Swimming New Zealand’s Wellington staff have been given a “Dear John” email – move to Auckland or find another job? If it is true, we warned you the new owners are tough buggers.
  3. Is it true that Bill Sweetenham flew first class or business class to New Zealand?
  4. Is it true that the cost of his accommodation alone is in excess of $300 a day at the up-market Crown Plaza hotel and his meals and other living cost are over and above the accommodation bill?
  5. Is it true that Sweetenham’s fee for a month’s work is $50,000?
  6. Will Swimming New Zealand confirm the Sweetenham fee without me having to apply for the amount through the Official Information Act?
  7. Is the total cost of the Sweetenham visit to the Millennium Institute in excess of $70,000 – or $5800 per Millennium swimmer per month? If all that is in any way close to the mark – the Millennium swimmers are going to have to produce some stunning world records to justify the expense. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Camille Muffat together don’t cost that much a month to coach.
  8. Is Sweetenham really worth a pay rate of $840,000 a year. Is he 14 times more productive, more valuable than the average domestic swim coach?
  9. Is it true that at afternoon training this week Sweetenham offered any swimmer who sincerely felt he or she had given their all, the opportunity to go home? Is it true that, when several swimmers decided they had done enough, and began to take up Sweetenham’s offer by getting out of the pool, Sweetenham cynically announced, “Now we’ve got rid of the liars”?
  10. If that is true, do we want New Zealand swimmers addressed in those terms? Is that the sort of behaviour that got Sweetenham into trouble in the UK? If this is what was said, should Sweetenham be sent back to Australia, on a budget airline, economy class?
  11. When Miskimmin and the new Swimming New Zealand employed Sweetenham, were they aware of his reputation? If they were, can we assume they approve of this type of comment and see it as a normal part of guiding young New Zealanders? And, if they do approve of people like Sweetenham, is it time for them to stand aside and let decent New Zealanders do their job?
  12. Is it true that the Meet Director, Ross Bragg, verbally ripped into one of the referees at the New Zealand Junior Championships? The referee asked me to check where one of my swimmers, who had been acting as marshal at the meet, had disposed of her start list. Evidently the list had some relevance to a question about Waikato’s participation in a relay. Were Bragg’s comments rude, bad mannered and unnecessary? More importantly were they in violation of the Swimming New Zealand Code of Conduct that demands Ross Bragg, respect the rights, dignity and worth of others, be fair, considerate and honest in all dealings with others, refrain from any form of abuse towards others, refrain from any form of harassment towards others and refrain from any form of victimization towards others? Should Mr. Bragg be reading Luke 4.23 – “Physician heal thyself”?
  13. Was the referee, and presumably Ross Bragg, approved decision to allow Waikato to swim their relay teams on their own twelve hours or so after the other teams had concluded the event based on any Swimming New Zealand or FINA rule? If so what was that rule? Did the official’s decision provide Waikato with an unfair advantage? And if there is no provision for allowing Waikato to compete on its own after a good night’s sleep, was the Bragg led team guilty of a further Code of Conduct breach – “be aware of, and maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies”.
  14. Were the Bragg led team of officials at the New Zealand Junior Championships aware that they disqualified a swimmer improperly for a backstroke violation? Did the Bragg led team of officials decide they would only acknowledge their error if Auckland filed a $50 protest? Is an attempt to intentionally hide an official error in violation of the Code of Conduct rule – “be aware of, and maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies”?

The new and harsher Swimming New Zealand owners have decided they will prove the value and validity of the Miskimmin and Sport New Zealand’s socialist philosophy. The Millennium Institute will be made to work. No cost will be spared, no obstruction will be tolerated. However Miskimmin, Dr. Who, Sweetenham and Villanueva will fail. Their efforts will never match the entrepreneurial coaching skills nurtured in the American and French diverse and scattered private enterprise delivery structure. Private enterprise ideally adapts itself to provide the coaching environments best suited to the different needs of Phelps, Lochte, Muffat and Agnel. You see, even if a New Zealand Phelps does arrive at Miskimmin’s Millennium monument the chance that the Millennium Institute’s environment will successfully nurture the New Zealand Phelps to Olympic success are odds of lotto proportions. But as our questions show, Sport New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand will waste millions attempting to defy the odds – for that is all they understand. Any New Zealand swimmer wanting to replicate the feats of a Danyon Loader would be well advised to do it with their home coach just as Danyon did. Certainly don’t go anywhere near the Millennium Institiute. Just look at the record. No one who has swum there has ever won an Olympic medal. Swim at the Millennium Institute and that’s how you will end up as well – even if the coach does cost close to a million dollars a year.