Dylan Cleaver: NZ sports power in the hands of a cosy club

By Dylan Cleaver

MIDWEEK FIXTURE

President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Mike Stanley.
President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Mike Stanley.

Sport in this country is increasingly dominated by a cosy club of individuals who may be incapable of dealing with a rising tide of athlete anger.

Sport New Zealand is run by Peter Miskimmin and the chairman of the board is the ultimate Wellington insider Sir Paul Collins. It's subsidiary organisation, High Performance Sport New Zealand has its own board, which also happens to be chaired by Collins.

Collins, who amassed a personal fortune as a corporate raider, took $24,000 in board fees in the 2015 financial year, just $1000 less than the maximum a top 12 athlete can earn in performance enhancement grants.

There are multiple members who serve both boards and receive fees from both boards.

Mike Stanley is on the board of High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Many of the sports services offered to our top athletes, sometimes referred to as carded athletes, are channelled through AUT Millennium.

Stanley is CEO of that organisation.

One of the programmes run and funded by HPSNZ, and based out of AUT Millennium, is the Athlete Life Programme.

Its manager is Jane Stanley, wife of the aforementioned.

To cap things off, Stanley is president of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, whose secretary-general Keryn Smith used to be one of New Zealand Sport's envoys as head of the Academy of Sport South (Stanley was, almost inevitably, chairman of the northern branch).

If Miskimmin and sports minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, who has shown remarkable dexterity in avoiding insightful commentary on anything in sport that might be deemed contentious, cannot see the potential conflicts of interest arising from these all-encompassing tentacles, they have lost sight of the wood through the trees.

Stanley has been a force for good in New Zealand sport. His has been a career of service to the industry, going right back to his days as a Olympic rower. He will one day get his knighthood and it will be a great deal more deserved than some others who have been doffed for services to sport.

But for him to hold that many roles of influence in the Sport NZ-NZOC nexus says two things: we must have an extremely narrow pool of administrative talent in this country; and sport in this country is done a disservice by such a limited range of ideas and thinking.

You will be reading more articles about this range of thinking in the coming months.

Following a Weekend Herald story outlining the disparity between what the country's elite Olympic athletes are paid and Sport NZ's bloated salary bands, former Minister for Sport Trevor Mallard spoke out.

"I've always been unhappy with a separate high-performance board and management, which has duplications with Sport New Zealand and as a result has extra costs. It's time there was a proper review. We need to look really carefully at the shape of the organisations.

"I would want to get someone with a really good reputation for running an organisation and a good understanding of sport to have a proper, independent look at it to make sure we've got an organisation which spends appropriately."

He has a point. It is time to revisit the Graham Report (2000), which transformed the sports administration landscape.

Though in this current environment, if there was a review, it would come as no surprise if Stanley was asked to lead it.

***

New Zealand lose to India by 178 runs, Kolkata.
NZ lose to India by 197 runs, Kanpur.
NZ lose to South Africa by 204 runs, Pretoria.
NZ draw with South Africa, Durban (only 99 overs possible due to a wet outfield).
NZ lose to Australia by seven wickets, Christchurch.
NZ lose to Australia by an innings and 52 runs, Wellington.

These are the Black Caps' 2016 test results against every country not named Zimbabwe. They are horrific. There is little point denying the obvious: New Zealand has lurched back into crisis mode in the most treasured format of the sport.

In not one of those matches have they been remotely competitive. Even worse, we seemed to have eased comfortably back into moral- and small-victory mode. You know, the "but it's a young side" brigade. Two quick rebuttals: it's not actually that young; and who cares.

Test cricket is not a development league. Nobody in India, England, Australia or any of the big nations give two hoots if Mitchell Santner is 24 or 34.

All teams go in cycles. Even Australia have endured lean times of late, but the vaunted 'A' programme was meant to churn out test-ready players to lessen the impact of these cycles.

New Zealand have to acknowledge they've fallen into a deep hole. They are not performing well and, on the surface, they are not selecting well.

Jimmy Neesham goes from serious injury and no cricket for months straight into a test squad for which, dumb luck or not, he is suddenly not available for. Despite the predictability of this, there is no like-for-like cover.

Even more bizarre is the case of Jeet Raval. I've heard explanations for his selection for Zimababwe and South Africa and non-selection for India, but I've yet to hear a plausible explanation - there's a big difference.

Mike Hesson positive contribution to the national side's fortunes still far outweigh the negative. He remains the right man to lead the side out of this slump. You can't help wonder, though, whether he might benefit from having someone inside the set-up who is willing to challenge him and some of his ideas. No coach is ever above that.

Did anybody keep Shane Bond's number?

THE WEEK IN MEDIA ...

If you read one foreign longform article this week, make it this one. A story about the terrible chance meeting of two sportsmen.

Just another reason I was desperately hoping both teams would lose Sunday's NRL grand final.

- NZ Herald

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