Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: NZ can't afford not to sail in Cup

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Not even two days had passed after the final race before rival syndicates were approaching the Kiwi team's best and brightest.  Photo / Chris Cameron
Not even two days had passed after the final race before rival syndicates were approaching the Kiwi team's best and brightest. Photo / Chris Cameron

Sinking money into sport is always a tough sell for governments.

No matter what reports they produce that point to tangible and intangible benefits to the country, opponents can always come with a list as long as Sam Whitelock's arm of infinitely more worthy causes - education, health, welfare, roading, and rebuilding Christchurch.

Despite the sense of nationalism and fervour Team New Zealand invoke, the Government's investment in their campaigns is a particularly thorny issue. A month ago the nation was enraptured by Team NZ's performances as they came so heart-breakingly close to snatching the America's Cup, and yet Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce's announcement this week that the Government is providing $5 million to help them stay afloat was greeted with widespread resistance.

Many are at the very least uncomfortable with the idea of the Government handing a sports team a cheque for $5 million with very little explanation about what that money will be used for.

The thing is, if Team NZ wait until the defenders Oracle release their plans for the next event, it is already too late. By the time they get their head around the details of the next Cup, and put together a proposal for commercial sponsors, their top talent would be long gone.

Not even two days had passed after the final race before rival syndicates were approaching the Kiwi team's best and brightest. Team NZ had only a small window to decide, first, if there was still the appetite to compete and second, act to secure their key personnel before they were swooped upon by the billionaire-funded teams.

Hard as it might be to stomach the Government providing bridging finance, it would be even harder to stomach the team's top names setting sail for other syndicates. Do the names Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth ring a bell?

There is also an uneasiness that the money has been dispensed to people with a lot of second places next to their name. It is natural for the public to ask if Grant Dalton (although he has not officially committed to another campaign with Team NZ) and Dean Barker are the right men to lead the syndicate. But the team can't attract talent from further afield without money.

The willingness to take a risk and cut Team NZ a cheque for $5 million knowing they may not be able to come up with the level of commercial funding needed to take part in the next event represents a major reversal by John Key's Government.

In announcing the decision to invest $36 million into Team NZ's 2013 campaign, the Government was at pains to point out it was honouring a 2007 deal struck by the Labour Government of the time. It was considered a one-time-only offer - if Team NZ didn't return home with the Auld Mug it was unlikely they would get anything more from the public purse.

But the level of visibility New Zealand had in the US during the America's Cup and the spin-off benefits that had for not only the marine industry, but also technology, the knowledge economy and tourism convinced the Government that New Zealand can't afford not to be involved in the America's Cup. In fact, they're willing to bet $5 million on it.

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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