Follow The Cash

 I was asked today if I knew the amount of money paid to elite sports people by their federations. In particular what amounts were spent by swimming, athletics and cycling? I had no idea but went to the three Annual Reports in search of answers. The numbers are not easy to find. Because the reports include different amounts in different categories making a comparison has its difficulties.

What do the numbers show?

  1. At $268,148 swimming only spends 17% of the $1,584,479 spent by athletics on their best competitors and 21% of the $1,251,673 spent by cycling. Another way of saying the same thing is that athletics spends six times more that swimming on supporting their best performers and cycling spends 4.5 times more. That is a huge gap.
  2. As a percentage of the government funding of each sport swimming and cycling are similar at 19% of government funding. Athletics is well ahead at just under 50%.
  3. As a percentage of total funding athletics provide their best competitors with 30% of their total income compared to 14% for cycling and 8% for swimming.
  4. The high amount but low percentage spending by cycling reflects the very large amounts that sport spends on other things. I suspect that is caused as a result of paying for costs associated with the new velodrome.

The table below shows my best guestimate of the numbers taken from the annual reports.

Swimming 2017
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 1,413,158 268,148 19%
Total Funding 3,546,861 268,148 8%
Swimming 2016
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 1,659,030 272,430 16%
Total Funding 3,808,704 272,430 7%
Athletics 2017
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 3,565,114 1,584,479 44%
Total Funding 5,343,103 1,584,479 30%
Athletics 2016
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 3,512,124 1,679,993 48%
Total Funding 5,188,059 1,679,993 32%
Cycling 2017
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 6,676,472 1,251,673 19%
Total Funding 8,736,282 1,251,673 14%
Cycling 2016
Funding $ Received $ Paid to Athletes % Paid to Athletes
SNZ Funding 6,973,938 1,358,064 19%
Total Funding 9,318,084 1,358,064 14%

Even the most strident critic of Swimwatch must admit that these figures don’t look good for Swimming New Zealand. Athletics and cycling spend six and 4.5 times more than swimming on looking after their best performers. The figures seem to support the argument that Coterill and company are pretty good at looking after themselves but not so good at caring for the poor buggers flogging up and down a swimming pool.

Of course it has to be admitted athletics and cycling have more stars to support. Now that Boyle has gone there is no one in swimming that comes close to Adams, Willis, Walsh, McCartney or Gill. But even taking this into account the figures are stunningly extreme. The comparison makes the sport of swimming look like third-world embarrassing poverty.

It is not as though the other sports are over-paying their competitors. Both athletics and cycling still spend thousands more on administration than they do on the people doing the work. And that’s not right. Not by a country mile. Just look at this next table to see how well the fat-cats in the office look after themselves.

Sport Spent on Administration Spent on Competitors Total Spent
Swimming 1,145,010 268,148 1,413,158
Athletics 1,980,635 1,584,479 3,565,114
Cycling 5,424,799 1,251,673 6,676,472

Athletics is clearly operating with the best set of priorities. However that’s not saying much. $2million spent around the office water cooler is way too much money. Swimming is simply embarrassing. Critics of Swimwatch need to pause, take a step back, breathe deeply for a minute and look at the numbers. Is this really the way they want the sport to be run? Is this how Perry, Hunter, Mains, Stanley, Ashby, Clareburt, Gichard, Doyle, Gasson, Transom and others should be treated? No I don’t think so.

But the sport that is going to have problems is cycling. The gloss of a good Commonwealth Games and a flash new Cambridge facility will only last so long. Soon the realization that the sport is spending $5.4million on itself and only $1.2million on the guys on a bike will have an effect. It seems that cycling is over-investing in bricks and mortar and under-investing in those that push a pedal. Exploiting the workforce will soon find them out. Just look what happened to swimming.

This week the NZSCTA Conference was held in Auckland. Did anyone ask President Sutton what he has done to correct these figures? Does he even know these are the figures? Does he care? He should. He coaches one of the swimmers being exploited and abused by those in power. Or is he too concerned with being mates with the inmates of Antares Place that the best interests of Bronagh Ryan don’t count? Sutton probably knows that by the time she realises how badly she’s being treated she’ll probably be about to retire. But Steve Johns will still be there – so buying him coffee is clearly more important.

Every figure says that the sport is being badly served by those in charge. It just beats me why people like Sutton and the administrators in the regions don’t do something about it.

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