There is a very good article in this morning’s NZ Herald. The story has an enormous title; “The year of the review – New Zealand’s broken system and broken athletes.” The author is NZ Herald journalist Dylan Clever. Here is the link to his article;

The number of reviews in 2018 is indeed impressive. Here is a list of their names.

1.    Triathlon New Zealand: Internal review2.    Rowing New Zealand: Internal review3.    Netball New Zealand: Mackinnon review

4.    New Zealand Rugby: Secondary schools rugby review

5.    New Zealand Football: Muir review

6.    Cycling New Zealand: Heron review

7.    Sport NZ: Cottrell report

8.    Hockey NZ: Dew report

Dylan Clever reaches the conclusion that sport in New Zealand is suffering because of an overemphasis on international results. Whether a coach is yelling at his athletes or waking up with one of them is all down to an unhealthy chase for gold medals. I agree with Heron. That is the overriding conclusion of all this reviewing.

Here is a much summarised version of Cleaver’s article.

By the time the Heron report into cycling had dropped there was such collective review fatigue among the sports journalism corps that it had all the impact of an Act Party press release.So disappointed were they by the lack of heavy lifting done by the sports journalism profession, they used the revelation vacuum to write a carefully worded op-ed under the name of HPSNZ chief executive Michael ScottScott made the now clichéd mistake of measuring non-brokenness (my word) with Olympic medals, when in fact it was the blind pursuit of these trinkets that has led to a wave of athlete resistance.

Yep, mark 2018 down as the year of athletes would go all Howard Beale in Network on us: “I’m a human being godammit!  My life has value… I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Earlier this month the Cottrell report into Elite Athletes’ Rights and Welfare was made public.

It was a thorough piece of work, with an interesting set of footnotes. The remarkably basic conclusions, however, could have been reached at a nominal cost using a simple eyes and ears test: treat athletes as humans, not pawns in the medal and title-hunting game.

My only criticism of what Clever has to say is his failure to address the underlying power motive for all the reviews. The superficial emphasis on “put athletes ahead of medals” and “protect athletes’ fragile mental health” is a superficial façade. In my opinion Miskimmin doesn’t care whether some Cambridge cyclist woke up in the wrong bed in Paris or rowing failed to perform at the most recent World Championships. What he cares about, and always has, is his personal power and his $500,000 a year pay cheque.

For over a decade Miskimmin has used the vehicle of sport reviews to consolidate and extend his power and control. The more threatened Miskimmin feels the more frequent the reviews. And if the reviews fail to reach the conclusion Miskimmin wants he thinks nothing of reviewing and reviewing again until he gets the words on a page that will serve his personal ends. It seems to me to be as cynical as it has been effective.

The best example of Miskimmin’s review tactic was his takeover of swimming. Between 2005 and 2012 Miskimmin authorised and paid for three reviews into the sport. Finally the last one, the “Moller Report”, came to the conclusions Miskimmin was looking for. Quick as lightning Miskimmin pounced. Swimming New Zealand’s (SNZ) constitution was changed. Any nod towards democracy was stripped from the sport. Miskimmin clones were vested with power. The control of Sport NZ was complete. The result has been catastrophic. Every year for a decade SNZ membership numbers have declined, every year international competitive results have fallen. In 2018 SNZ sent teams to three world events (the Commonwealth Games, the Pan Pacific Games and the World SC Championships) for a yield of one bronze medal. In my opinion that is a direct product of three Miswkimmin reviews, one power grab and six years of Miskimmin rule.

Any who questions the control Miskimmin has over SNZ should read the SNZ constitution, study the income statement and consider the sycophantic servitude of Cotterill, Johns and Francis. Miskimmin is in total control. And the result of Miskimmin’s authoritarian rule has brought the once proud sport of Mosse, Kingsman, Loader and Hurring to its knees. In 2018 even the feats of lesser athletes such as Langrell, Jeffs, Ingram and Burmester are impossible beacons on a faraway hill.

I have no doubt that the 2018 burst of reviews has the consolidation and extension of Miskimmin’s power as their motive. The sacking of a string of executives is the classic response of a dictator. Dictators the world over do it all the time. Just consider the Trump White House. The reason for their replacement doesn’t really matter. Performance is never the motivation. Bringing their replacements under control, into subservient obedience to Miskimmin, is the goal. In that the eight 2018 reviews have been universally successful. Miskimmin is back in absolute dictatorial control. Ten more years of unquestioned rule from Sport NZ in Wellington is assured.

The sports chosen by Miskimmin for review were also not selected by chance. Recent results of cycling, rowing, netball, triathlon and football have been poor. Miskimmin has been in charge, but he does not want to have the blame for poor results put at his door, so order a review and blame a coach with too loud a voice or too much sex drive. The answer is to bring in a weaker coaches who will do anything to avoid the errors of their predecessors. It does not pay to stand out in the Miskimmin Empire.

The same thing happened in SNZ. Remember when the sport went through eight coaches in eight years, until we ended up with a pawn like Lyles or an American age-group coach or a North Shore Club age-group coach running the show. Their competence was never the point. Were they loyal to Miskimmin was what mattered. Of course they are.

And that’s why 2018 was the year of the review.

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