Archive for October, 2018

Corrupt Integrity

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

The saddest and funniest thing I’ve seen in sport recently is the Sport NZ promotion of a survey into sporting integrity. No one at Sport NZ seems to understand that Sport NZ is the integrity problem. There is no point in Sport NZ examining the ethics of sport when the problems of integrity are caused by them. Miskimmin and his mates in NSOs and HPSNZ are the problem. They have created the environment where New Zealand currently has investigations into half a dozen sports. The blame for the chaos lies inside Sport NZ, squarely at the door of Peter Miskimmin.

This survey is simply an effort to distract attention; to force our focus away from Sport NZ and onto everyone else. In particular Miskimmin is desperate to force our concentration downwards to the grass roots of New Zealand sport. The last thing he wants is for his role in the current chaos to become the central subject of investigation. However, as is often the case, corruption begins at the top. The top creates the environment that causes corruption to flourish. In New Zealand that has certainly been the case. Sadly, it is probably true that Miskimmin will succeed in deflecting attention away from himself and will use the survey to further his personal empire. That in itself is corruption.

But let’s try our best to make his plan more difficult. Let’s try and make him more honest. Let’s consider his integrity.

Before completing Miskimmin’s survey Sport NZ encourage us to read the “Sport  Integrity  Review  Discussion Document”. That is not as easy as it sounds. There are 111 pages of Miskimmin propaganda. It is not possible to discuss every manipulation included to distract and bias participants about to complete the survey. Instead I will discuss only one of the document’s many distortions.

On page 11 Miskimmin makes the following assertion:

Volunteers can have the following implications:

1.    As staff are not paid, sport organisations often focus on the core business of delivering sport. Allocating time to other matters, including integrity matters, is difficult when volunteer sports officials or administrators are balancing day jobs, family commitments and other obligations.

2.    Given the voluntary nature of some positions, it may be difficult for sport organisations to attract volunteers with appropriate skills and experience.

3.    While volunteers do not earn money, they may earn trust and gratitude from the club. Over time, this can manifest in the form of decreased scrutiny which can potentially lead to sport integrity breaches. Volunteers can feel a sense of entitlement which can manifest as a belief that they deserve benefits.

4.    Legislation pertaining to “employees” may not always be applicable to volunteers in sport organisations. This means that protections and processes available to employees may not be available to volunteers or members of a sport organisation.

I have seldom been as incensed as I am about the implications of that claim. When I think of the army of volunteers who managed the affairs of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) honestly and long before Miskimmin came to power, this slur on them is disgusting. Women like Beth Meade, Norma Williams and Joe Draisey and men like Noel Smith, Ron Shakespeare and Artie Shaw ran the affairs of swimming with more integrity and honesty than the overpaid fat-cats we have today.

But it is not only those who are no longer here that are being insulted by Miskimmin’s implied accusations. Just consider where Counties-Manukau Swimming would be without Jeannie and Jeff Sibun. Miskimmin would probably consider them to be a bit old-fashioned. But remember this, they run an honest and caring ship that includes several of New Zealand’s best swimmers. And there are a hundred like the Sibuns who do not deserve the insults contained in Miskimmin’s Review.

But the reason Miskimmin wants us to focus on his lists of deficiencies in volunteers is because he knows the failings in sport begin and end at his door. Page 12 of his Review almost admits to his failures. This is what it says:

Those who have power, authority and the ability to influence also play an important role in setting the culture of the organisation.

Well, Peter Miskimmin, no one in New Zealand sport has more “power, authority and ability to influence” than you. As far as I can tell that means you are responsible for “setting the culture of the organisation”. Its failings are down to you. The buck stops with you.

But I guess it is not enough to say that Miskimmin is responsible for the shortcomings in New Zealand sport. If New Zealand sport is less honest and, in swimming, less successful than when the men and women I have mentioned were running the show, why is that the case? The reason is two words, both down to Miskimmin – centralisation and power.

Almost everyone has heard the Lord Acton expression, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What Miskimmin has done is pander to that base instinct. In swimming, Miskimmin used the 2012 Constitutional change to strip SNZ of its democratic institutions, he centralised power in a largely appointed Board, he encouraged the appointment of highly paid bureaucrats like himself and he arranged for New Zealand’s best swimmers to be herded into a SNZ swim school in Auckland.

In swimming Miskimmin concentrated power into the hands of overpaid bureaucrats. To a greater or lesser extent he has done the same thing in dozens of other sports. And the price, as Lord Acton predicted, is absolute corruption.

What else would you call Miskimmin’s pay of $400,000 and Johns $150,000 compared to Valerie Adams $60,000 for an Olympic Gold Medal? What else would you call Johns and Francis flying around the world for free when Hunter and Godwin have to pay for themselves? What else would you call me being denied access to the report on the investigation into my coaching? The list of Miskimmin sourced corruption is very long.

So what is the answer? That’s easy. Sack Miskimmin and bring back democracy. After the dark clouds of Miskimmin’s autocratic rule have passed there will be a cleansing quality in the smell of fresh, democratic air. I can’t wait.


Is The Swimming NZ President About To Be Dumped?

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has just elected Dr Dave Gerrard as its new President. Gerrard is a medical doctor, an ex-Commonwealth butterfly champion and is currently chairman of an important World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) committee. On the surface his selection as SNZ President appears to be an inspired choice. Well educated, a successful athlete and an international administrator – what else could SNZ want? But is it as good as it seems? Are their gathering clouds in the Gerrard CV that should concern us all?

You see, all is not well at Gerrard’s international job. WADA is a mess. Much of it has to do with the organisation’s leadership. In that role Dave Gerrard is a key member. The current shambles at WADA is described by Craig Lord on the SwimVortex facebook page. Here is the link.

One obvious question has to be asked. If things are falling apart in Dave Gerrard’s WADA, is he capable of contributing to the equally shambolic SNZ? We can get some insight into the leadership problems at WADA and their likely impact on SNZ by looking at the WADA complaints. These have been articulated most clearly by four times Olympic race-walking medalist, Australian, Jared Tallent. The Australian is lending his support to the Reform Proposal Paper launched by Rio 2016 Para-Powerlifting Silver Medalist Ali Jawad titled “The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age”. The tables below summarize his findings.

 WADA’s governance, in its current form, is not fit for purpose. In the absence of leadership at the top, it’s now incumbent on the athletes to drive the much-needed change.

Does this mean SNZ has employed a President who is included in a report that says there is an absence of leadership in his current job? That needs to be investigated. Because the last thing SNZ needs is further lack of leadership.

High-profile athlete intervention on WADA’s governance puts further pressure on the global regulator to make significant changes in what has become the greatest crisis in its 19-year history.

Are SNZ really employing a President who is being publically associated with “the greatest crisis” in WADA’s 19-year history? Did the Board of SNZ investigate the validity of these claims before endorsing Gerrard’s selection? If they didn’t, it is an example of further gross negligence. If they did, why were we not told and assured SNZ were happy these leadership accusations had no merit. Either way the Board of SNZ have acted poorly.

The Plan calls for the sport and government representatives on influential WADA Committees to be replaced by fully independent members; instead of alternating between the worlds of sport and government to ensure that there is much greater scrutiny of the decision-making process that impacts the lives of athletes worldwide.

Here again the organisation, in which Gerrard plays a leading role, is being accused of requiring far “greater scrutiny of the decision-making process”. Even the greatest Swimwatch critic would have to accept one of our leading complaints is the need for greater scrutiny of SNZ decisions. If Gerrard is involved in the same problem on a world scale at WADA, then hopes for reform at SNZ stand little chance of success.

 WADA has changed for the worse in the last few years, with it becoming increasingly close to the IOC, and, as a result, increasingly compromised and conflicted in the global fight against doping. Athletes are now deeply worried about the direction WADA is heading, and, in the absence of there being the robust and single-minded leadership that we require.

That is hardly the most glowing reference I have seen on a CV. An absence of robust leadership and a change for the worst, sounds just like the sort of President SNZ needs right now. Oh, I know Johns and Cotterill were ecstatic with delight when the appointment of Gerrard was announced. But then I doubt they would know what robust leadership looked like even on a good day. My bet is they were stage-struck by the name Gerrard and never bothered to investigate the alleged reality behind the name. There have been plenty of managers who have made that mistake.

The lack of independence, along with the fact that decisions that impact the livelihoods of clean athletes are made surreptitiously and “behind closed doors”, are two areas of huge concern to international athletes. This is not how something as important as anti-doping should be run. I encourage my fellow athletes to back these proposals, and I encourage WADA and the IOC to start listening – they must remember who they represent.

Increasingly this does not sound good at all. The last thing SNZ needs is a President who is accused of making surreptitious decisions behind closed doors. There is already far too much of that in SNZ. If only half of this WADA report is true our chances of seeing reform from President Gerrard are fading fast. Remember when SNZ used to publish Board minutes. Looks like those days are not about to come back any time soon. Cotterill and Johns may have found a mate in the new President.

The way that the IOC and WADA members have responded to bullying allegations is totally inappropriate. It is beyond belief that those who are supposed to represent the athletes treat our voices with such contempt. It’s equally disappointing that WADA and the IOC have maintained a virtual silence on the matter, which implicitly suggests an acceptance of bullying.

Swimwatch readers will know that for weeks I have been asking SNZ to provide me with a copy of the report into allegations made against my coaching. SNZ flatly refused. Without question that decision is a form of bullying; might over right. We will see where this fight ends up. The Human Rights Commission sounds good to me. We will see how tough Cotterill is in that forum. Sadly it should never end up like that. But if these accusations against WADA are true it looks like we cannot look to President Gerrard for relief from a bullying injustice.

We are urging WADA leadership will start engaging with the proposals in the crucial lead up to the next WADA Foundation Board Meeting on 15 November in Azerbaijan.

I would recommend the Board of SNZ keep a close watch on what happens at WADA over the next few weeks. It could be that the new SNZ President is up to his eyeballs in trouble. If that is the case, it may pay to start looking now for an uncompromised replacement.

Swimming New Zealand Annual Report – Fact or Fiction

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Measuring the financial health of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is not easy. It is not a “normal” business. Ratios such as Return on Equity and the like, that apply in the real world, have little relevance in SNZ. And so for the purposes of this report, let’s invent our own measures. Let’s see how well the numbers say Johns and Cotterill did their job in 2018.

Welfare Dependency

Unlike a normal business SNZ is hugely dependent on government and charity handouts. The organisation is a welfare beneficiary. As SNZ has recently discovered, that is a vulnerable position to be in. When someone at HPSNZ decides swimming is not towing the line, the money disappears. Two or three charities catch a mild cold and SNZ is in hospital with the flu. In terms of risk, SNZ’s dependence on welfare is critically important. Personally I would prefer to be poor, independent and safe. But that is not the path SNZ has chosen.

So how dependent has SNZ been on handouts over the past ten years? The table below shows the numbers including the percentage of the business that is dependent on welfare.

Year Total Income Grants & Donations G&D % of Income
2009 3,606,555 2,586,135 72
2010 3,785,238 2,696,127 71
2011 4,158,493 3,253,336 78
2012 4,336,935 3,402,843 78
2013 4,343,696 3,406,118 78
2014 4,653,269 3,663,687 79
2015 3,808,704 2,850,069 75
2016 3,854,559 2,476,306 64
2017 3,546,861 2,208,972 62
2018 3,154,053 1,961,814 62
Average over 10 years 3,924,836 2,850,540 72

So, what does this say? It tells us that through most of the past ten years about three quarters of SNZ’s income has come from handouts. The business of swimming has only generated about one quarter of the organisation’s income. That is extremely vulnerable and dangerous.

However, there is a silver lining. While Cotterill and Johns have been weeping crocodile tears over the reduction in government funding the effect on the organisation has been to decrease its reliance on welfare from 75% to 62%. That is still far too high but it is a move in the right direction. And so the tough love has been good. Antares Place is much less dependent on Miskimmin. Long may it last. Two things are important. Johns and Cotterill cannot be allowed to drag swimming back to 75% dependency. The financial performance of both should include the goal of seeing the handout portion of SNZ’s income reduce further, to below 50%. In other words SNZ should be able to stand on its own two financial feet.


For about 12 years SNZ Annual Reports have included a table that compares membership numbers over the previous four years. All of a sudden in 2018 the table disappeared. That made me suspicious. What was Johns trying to hide? In my opinion he has a tendency to hide or ignore bad news. Was the disappearance of these figures a case of Johns providing us with fake news?

The table below shows the membership of SNZ over the past ten years.

Year Members
2009 19,847
2010 22,202
2011 25,467
2012 21,879
2013 18,200
2014 17,350
2015 18,029
2016 19,028
2017 19,118
2018 18,730
Average over 10 years 19,985 

As you can see, membership in 2018 dropped to 18,730. Was this the fact Johns was trying to hide? Did he not want us to know that we now have 300 fewer members than when Johns joined SNZ? Is he trying to hide the fact that swimming in 2018 has 6,737 fewer members than it did seven years ago? Or is Johns ashamed that the average SNZ membership number for ten years is 19,985 and today it is 1,255 less than that? On average, since 2011, we have lost members at a rate of close to 1000 a year. At this rate by the year 2036 Johns will be able to turn off the lights. He will be the only one left.


In the case of SNZ, income is a very poor indicator of performance. The amount of income is dominated by three factors – government welfare, membership numbers and the amount SNZ charges members for services.

We have already discussed the decline in government welfare. That is down. We have also discussed the fall in membership. That is also down. So that only leaves the amount SNZ charge the members for entry fees, membership levies and user-pays to compensate for the erosion in other areas. Is that what has happened? The table below shows SNZ total income for the ten years since 2009.

Year Total Income
2009 3,606,555
2010 3,785,238
2011 4,158,493
2012 4,336,935
2013 4,343,696
2014 4,653,269
2015 3,808,704
2016 3,854,559
2017 3,546,861
2018 3,154,053
Average over 10 years 3,924,836

As you would expect the increase in charges has not been enough to compensate for the falling membership and the drop in government handouts. Income has fallen from $4.6 million in 2014 to $3.1 million in 2018. That’s a fall of $1.5 million (33%) in five years; an average of $300,000 each year. That is catastrophically huge. What makes it worse is my guess that the pay of three staff members (Johns, Francis and Carroll) on their own account for in excess of 12% of SNZ total income. In effect 12 cents out of every dollar we pay to SNZ goes straight into the pocket of three employees. The same figure for the Warehouse is less than 1%. That SNZ remuneration ratio is way out of line. I suspect we are not getting value for our money.


Profit in SNZ is of doubtful relevance. HPSNZ has total control over how much profit SNZ is able to make. I have no doubt that if SNZ began to accumulate reserves that HPSNZ thought were more than they liked, the government’s supply of money would be turned off very quickly. In addition to that SNZ profits have taken a hit in each Olympic year. You can see this in the profit table below where large losses were made in 2012 and 2016. Those losses are symptomatic of the pathetically amateur way SNZ runs their swimming business. Millions are poured into a dozen swimmers for six months around an Olympic Games. Then for three and a half years nothing happens until it is time for the next burst of spending. It really is pathetic. The numbers do not lie. Set out below is a table of SNZ’s profits over the past ten years.

Year Total Surplus
2009 270,693
2010 89,271
2011 34,227
2012 (120,213)
2013 16,234
2014 18,021
2015 109,713
2016 (63,923)
2017 29,115
2018 58,853
Average over 10 years 44,199
Average Non-Olympic Years 62,213

SNZ’s profit in 2018 is a good result; especially after taking into account the drop in income. Cotterill was honest enough to admit, in his Annual Report, that a grant of $199,756 from the Warehouse saved SNZ’s profit bacon. SNZ’s profit in 2018 deserves a pass mark – probably only a C+ but a pass never-the-less.


Well, look at this. The accounts tell us that Swimming New Zealand is now worth the grand sum of $448,613. That is still a pretty pathetic and dangerously low number. There is not much there in the way of reserves. Swimming Canterbury on its own is worth almost as much ($373,012). However it is to SNZ’s credit that the figure is the highest it has been for over ten years. It does look as though we have saved the best till last. Here are the numbers.

Year Total Equity
2009 277,315
2010 366,586
2011 400,813
2012 280,600
2013 314,855
2014 296,834
2015 424,568
2016 360,645
2017 389,760
2018 448,613
Average over 10 years 356,059





Irony & Sorrow

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

This week Craig Lord reported on SwimVortex that Kornelia Ender has turned 60 years old. It is a lovely article, balanced and sincere; well worth a read. Here is the link:

Craig Lord discusses the paradox of Ender’s career. On the one hand you had the multiple Olympic medalist who broke 29 world records. On the other hand Ender was the victim of a massive state drug abuse program. Lord calls it a life of “irony and sorrow”; wonderful and accurate words to describe Ender’s participation in the East German drug heist.

The abuse was unimaginable. But it was my personal contact with a coaching participant that brought me face to face with the cruelty of that period. Shortly before the Berlin Wall was destroyed in 1989 I read that the East German women’s coach, Mike Regner, had escaped to West Germany. Mike was extremely well known. He was acknowledged as the East German expert on altitude training. He had also played a leading role in coaching the successful East German women’s team at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. At the Games East German women won 10 Gold Medals in the 15 event women’s program. Mike had worked closely with illustrious names such as Kristin Otto, Heike Friedrich, Silke Horner and Daniela Hunger.

At the time I was looking for a coach for our club and wondered if Mike would consider moving to New Zealand. I had no idea how to get in contact with him but contacted the West German Embassy in Australia and asked if they could find out if Mike was interested in talking to me. A couple of weeks later the Embassy called back to say they had spoken to Mike. He was interested in talking about a job in New Zealand. They gave me a phone number in Frankfurt.

In half an hour we had worked out the terms of his employment. In a week he was in New Zealand. In a month he was settled in a pool coaching swimmers that included New Zealand backstroke champion, Sharron Musson.

There is no question Mike knew how to coach. Every day I watched him work I learned. He used drills I had never seen before – Chicken Wings and Otter for example. He excluded drills I used – One Arm Freestyle and Backstroke for example. He had rules I found interesting – “If you want someone to swim like a fish, they must feel like a fish,” for example. He balanced aerobic, anaerobic and speed training in unusual and interesting ways.

If Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) had listened to Mike Regner they could have saved themselves many hundreds of thousands of dollars on wasted high altitude camps. But they never did. Here, in New Zealand for free, SNZ had access to the world’s leading authority on altitude training. Training that, in one Olympic Games, had been used to prepare ten Olympic Champions. But would they use him? Not SNZ – they knew best. There was no way they were going to ask someone employed by David Wright. Far better to waste a million dollars than do that. The ridiculous 2017 camp in Arizona before the last World Championships is the most recent example of waste that listening to Mike Regner could have avoided.

After a month in New Zealand I knew Mike well enough to ask the question, “Mike, I know you are a good coach. You do things on the side of a pool I have never seen before. Why was it in East Germany you needed to cheat? Why did you use drugs? You probably could have won many of those medals without drugs.”

Mike took a diary out of his briefcase. He opened it and pointed to an entry that said the name of a swimmer and in German beside the name, “Zum meizinischen Zentrum.”

“Do you know what that says?” he asked. “It says to the medical center.”

Page after page was the same. The name of a swimmer followed by, “To the medical center.” Mike then argued that, yes he knew what was happening but as an officer in the East German army he had no option but to obey orders. If he hadn’t, his wife and boy and he would have been jailed or worse. I have never been entirely convinced by that type of, an order is an order, “Nuremberg Defense”.

But probably the argument that changed my mind occurred at the first National Championships after Mike arrived in New Zealand. The CEO of SNZ came and sat down beside Gary Hurring, Mike and me. I introduced him to Mike. Without pause the CEO launched into a full assault. He said Mike should know that SNZ were not happy he was in New Zealand. Mike’s name was permanently associated with a corrupt regime. Mike had done nothing to prevent the abuse of drugs. The sooner he left New Zealand the better.

Mike was deadly calm and quietly said he was sorry SNZ felt that way. He said he was interested to hear SNZ ask what he had done to prevent the East German drug abuse. Mike then explained what he had done was to collect his wife and little boy in the middle of the night in order to cut and crawl through two barbed wire fences, past sweeping search lights and sentry posts. Being caught meant instant death. Leaving behind parents and grandparents also put them in terrible danger. That is what Mike had done to get out of the drug culture of East German sport. What, Mike asked the CEO of SNZ, had he done that could compare? As is normal with SNZ the CEO got up and walked away. In the three years Mike was in New Zealand SNZ never spoke to him again.

Craig Lord is right. That story highlights the “irony and the sorrow” of state drug abuse. The state sponsors deserve nothing but contempt and punishment. But there are many victims inside and outside the system. In my view Mike’s question is as relevant today as it was when he was in New Zealand. What has SNZ or Gerrard or Cotterill or Johns or WADA or FINA or the IOC done today to bring an end to the current Russian or Chinese abuse of drugs that could compare with crawling between two barbed wire fences, waiting for shots to signal detection. Nothing is the answer. And that is truly ironic and sad.

Do You Want To Keep Your Personal Coach?

Friday, October 26th, 2018

The previous Swimwatch post mentioned several worrying aspects of the most recent email from Gary Francis. I think it is important to spend some additional time discussing his plans; especially one specific feature that Francis thinks is important. Here is what his email says.

I’m so pleased that several regions have already initiated squads with the intention to hold their own camps and travel to competition as representative teams for their regions. In several regions there is now a drive to create senior, performance based programmes – this is just starting, but it will develop.

Be extremely cautious of the motives behind the Francis’ plan. In my opinion Francis should not be trusted. Behind his smooth and somewhat creepy words there is a devious purpose. In my view his goal is to see club teams reduced in importance. Regionalism is an effort to bring back centralisation by another name.

Let me explain the history that leads me to that opinion. Until the early 1990s teams attending the National Championships were selected and represented their home region. There were no club teams. Things were what Francis wants us to go back to. Clubs put their qualified swimmers forward to Regional selectors. The Regional teams were then announced. A Regional Manager and Head Coach were appointed. Regional uniforms were distributed and group travel was arranged. Gary Francis would love it. It was exactly what he wants us to do today.

Swimmer’s personal coaches could travel separately to the Championships but for the duration of the meet they were forbidden from having contact with their swimmers. Any communication had to be processed through the Region’s Team Manager or Head Coach. As I say it was/is a Gary Francis dream.

In 1991 I was fed up with this nonsense. Our club had a very good Head Coach, Gary Hurring, and was investing many thousands of dollars in building a strong and successful swim team. It was beyond reason that at the most important domestic meet of the year our club’s swimmers were being kidnapped to be coached and managed by someone else. The swimmers didn’t want it. The swimmer’s parents didn’t want it. Our club coach, manager and committee didn’t want it. No one wanted it except the 1990’s Gary Francis clones in SNZ and in the Regions. For them it was all about power.

I decided something needed to be done. I met a well-known Wellington law firm and explained the problem. They thought we had a case and wrote a brief to be presented to Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). The brief included an opinion that argued that the actions of SNZ were forcing our club to breach its contract with the swimmers and/or their parents. Swimmers were paying the club to be coached by Gary Hurring. That was their contract with the club. By forcing the swimmers to be coached by someone else during the National Championships SNZ was forcing a breach of contract.

SNZ rejected our approach. I remember the Francis clone saying how dare we hit him with a legal demand like that. Who did we think we were?

We asked SNZ to reconsider. That also failed. Their reply included a demand that we not bother them again. Teams had always travelled as Regional teams. That’s the way it was going to stay. By this time the National Championships were only one or two weeks away. Something needed to be done quickly. Our lawyer suggested we apply for an emergency interim injunction requiring the National Championships to be cancelled until a court could decide on the merits of our case.

We got a Court date which, if I remember correctly, was on a Friday afternoon before the Championships were due to begin the following Tuesday. The Friday arrived and I went with the lawyers to have lunch in Wellington’s El Casino restaurant before going to the Court. Spirits were high. The lawyers were confident that the injunction would be granted. Midway through the main course I got a phone call. It was the SNZ Francis clone; an extremely grumpy clone. He said SNZ had met with its lawyers during the morning and had decided we could travel as a club to the Nationals. We had won. SNZ did not however want to pay our costs. I agreed we would all pay our own costs. That is a decision I have regretted ever since.

That weekend our club travelled to the Championships alone, dressed in our club gear, coached by our club coach, staying in our club accommodation, independent and free. In twelve months pretty well every club in the country was doing the same thing. A few Regions like HBPB held on to the regional thing for a bit longer but eventually the appeal of freedom had its way. Few of us realised how bad things had been until we experienced the freedom to do our own thing, in our own way.

That is how independent club attendance at the National Championships began. It has always been light years ahead of the fake regional idea. Teams that train together should stay together. Independent club teams promote the life blood of the sport – competition. I have no idea why Francis wants to promote bogus Regional teams. The USA is the world’s most successful swimming nation. Their swimming is based on a club structure. Does anyone think the USA would persist with a club structure if there was a chance that Regional teams would produce a better result? The Americans would change in a heartbeat. But they don’t. They stay with clubs because clubs better provide the diversity and competition necessary for a strong sport. But Francis, a New Zealand club age-group club coach, thinks he knows better than the Americans. Beware he is leading us into a very dark place.

I don’t think there is a coach anywhere who wants to hand over their best swimmers to a Regional coach for the National Championships. I cannot imagine Gary Hollywood being impressed with the idea of the Masterton Coach taking over the preparation of Lewis Clareburt or William Benson handing over Emma Godwin to the Waipukurau Coach. But that’s the way it used to be and where Francis regionalism will lead us today.

The problem with freedom is you often don’t know what you have until you lose it. Do not be suckered into another Francis con. Value your independence. It was hard won. If you hand your freedom to do your own thing over to Gary Francis it will be a huge job to win it back.