Sport New Zealand’s investigation into the structure of sport has been a stunning waste of time and money. Oh, it has suited the Castle gang perfectly. Attention has been focused on incompetents at Cycling New Zealand (CNZ). Sport New Zealand’s corruption has escaped scrutiny, yet again.

I know there will be readers saying, “There goes Wright again, using words like corruption to describe the wonderful people at Sport New Zealand. Look at all the money they hand out. They do not deserve a word like corrupt.”

Please, just give me a chance to tell you why. Because the structure of sport is founded on autocratic rule. Sport in New Zealand is not democratic – nothing like democratic. And in our society that is corrupt.

The previous CEO of Sport New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin, changed the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) constitution. That happened at a Special General Meeting (SGM) held on 28 July 2012. To say it was a brutal blood bath would be an understatement.

The meeting began with an announcement that no media attendance would be allowed. These affairs were not for public scrutiny. If dark deeds were to be done, they would be done in secret.

A Miskimmin disciple called, Chris Moller then addressed the Meeting. He congratulated those able to see the future of the sport. That future turned out to be a decade of unparalleled misery and failure to perform.

Moller then called for the Auckland Board and its Chief Executive, who had opposed changing the constitution, to stand down. Members got the message. Do what you are told or get out. Dissent would be treated harshly in the new SNZ. The message of Tiananmen Square was not lost on Sport New Zealand.

And behind it all lay the unspoken spectre of accept a new constitution or say goodbye to future funding. Taxpayer’s money was used to extend Sport New Zealand’s power. The SGM chose the money and changed the constitution.

What’s so wrong with that, you might ask? Well, the new constitution changed swimming from a democracy, where the members elected their leaders, to an autocracy where effectively the CEO of Sport New Zealand appointed those who would rule the sport. The way Miskimmin did that was to alter the constitution. Three members of the governing Board would be elected and three would be appointed by Miskimmin. In the event of a tied Board vote the Chairman would have a second deciding vote – and the Chairman would also be decided by Miskimmin. SNZ became part of a Sport New Zealand autocracy.

Flushed with his success in swimming, Miskimmin went around New Zealand imposing the same constitutional dictatorship on Rowing, Canoeing, Cycling, Gymnastics and a dozen other sports. New Zealand sport became a huge, centralised Sport New Zealand dictatorship. Miskimmin had, and now Raelene Castle has, absolute, constitutional power to rule.

When the same thing happened in Putin’s Russia, or the Marco’s Philippines, or in Hong Kong we rushed to call Putin, Marcos and Xi, corrupt. They constitutionally changed their countries from democracies to dictatorships. Why then should Miskimmin and Castle escape the same label, when they have done the same thing to New Zealand sport.

Being a centralised dictatorship has allowed Miskimmin and Castle to impose their immorality and standards on the sports they rule. My argument has always been, the culture they allowed to fester, effectively killed Olivia Podmore – not the CNZ coach, or the CNZ CEO, but the culture, norms and money sanctioned by the supreme leaders, Miskimmin and Castle.

In swimming we still have a Board of six members, three appointed and three elected. The three appointed members are Andrew Kelleher, Margaret McKee and Donna Bridgeman. And it is time for them to go. If they want to sit on the SNZ Board let them stand for election like any other self-respecting New Zealander. If democracy is good enough to run the country, it’s good enough to run swimming. We do not need or want Sport New Zealand lackies telling us what to do – especially when they are associated with a culture that killed one of our best sportswomen.

It is off the subject, but Margaret McKee would be on the SNZ Board even if it was democratic. Talented and able, I’m surprised she agreed to participate in Miskimmin’s autocratic sham. She knows better than that.

The rot in New Zealand sport will not be fixed by the current worthless report. Why? Because the investigation chickened out of addressing the root cause of the problem. Democracy has been abandoned in the name of Sport New Zealand power. Like most similar regimes “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. After the Folau mess, I certainly would not trust Castle with my daughter’s swimming career. Aimee Fisher, Jessie Smith, Lauren Boyle and Glenn Snyders obviously came to the same conclusion. They left Sport New Zealand’s dangerously corrupt world and went off to do their own thing. Olivia Podmore realised the same thing but left it too late to get out. But is it likely Heron and Leberman would address that issue? Of course not. Not when the “Dear Leader” was paying their wages.

The next Swimwatch post will address a second fundamental issue ignored by this pathetically weak Heron/Leberman effort. Heron has tried to reform cycling twice without success. I thought university degrees specialised in developing analytical skills. In my opinion missing sports lack of democratic institutions is not the best advertisement for their Victoria and Massey University education.

PS – I see Dana Johannsen reports today that sports administrator, Kereyn Smith has been appointed, “transformational director” at CNZ, with High Performance Sport NZ to pick up the tab for Smith’s salary.

I have huge respect for Kereyn Smith. She is straight and honest. Her ego does not get in the way of making good decisions. But her new job is a lost cause. It is not CNZ that needs “transforming”. It was not SNZ that needed “transforming”. Sport New Zealand is the problem, and it is paying Smith’s wages.

When Kereyn Smith transforms New Zealand sport into a democracy again, where Boards are elected by the members and Castle is stripped of direct power then her appointment will have merit. She is the person to do it – but will she? Until then, Kereyn Smith has only been appointed by Castle to protect Castle. Another “look what I’ve done” sleight of hand.   

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