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McCully to Hold Talks on Valerie Adams

McCully to Hold Talks on Valerie Adams; Says NZ Athletics Slow to Adapt to Professionalism

Sports Minister Murray McCully is to meet Valerie Adams’ agent this week to review how she was nearly disqualified from the London Olympics because of a clerical error.

Mr McCully told TV3’s “The Nation” this weekend that last week he had a private meeting with Miss Adams in London.

“Her manager Nick Cowan has asked me for a more formal meeting back in New Zealand, which will probably happen next week with officials,” said Mr McCully.

“This is a an NZOC issue, it's their territory but we're a significant stakeholder, we're significant funders of high performance sport, and so I want to see us all put our heads together and make sure that all the lessons are learnt.  It should never have happened.”

Mr McCully said the way Miss Adams found her name was not on the entry list for the shot put (by finding it missing on a web site) was “part of the problem”.

“She's a tough lady, she deals with these things as well as anyone can, but who knows what the impact was, I don’t think it's even useful to speculate.

“It just should never have happened.”

Mr McCully was also critical of athletics in New Zealand in the way it had adapted to professionalism in sport.

“I think it's fair to say that some codes are better than others at dealing with modern dynamics, and athletics is probably one that has not made the transition as well as some other sports,” he said.

Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY

Rachel The London Olympics are in their last few days and soon our athletes will be home when the Olympic post-mortem will really begin. There's lots to celebrate of course but there will also be questions about the performances of some sports. It's an area of major investment for our government that will spend 60 million dollars on high performance sport in the next financial year. Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully was in London this week, he spoke with Valerie Adams and her coach after her silver medal win. I spoke with the Minister yesterday on his return and asked him about those meetings.

Murray McCully – Sport & Recreation Minister
Her manager Nick Cowan has asked me for a more formal meeting back in New Zealand, which will probably happen next week with officials. Look this is a an NZOC issue, it's their territory but we're a significant stakeholder, we're significant funders of high performance sport, and so I want to see us all put our heads together and make sure that all the lessons are learnt. It should never have happened.

Rachel What was your initial reaction when you heard that you know, cos Valerie looked on the internet didn’t she, the night before and saw she wasn't on that list.

Murray Yeah I think the way in which she found out was part of the problem. She's a tough lady, she deals with these things as well as anyone can, but who knows what the impact was, I don’t think it's even useful to speculate. It just should never have happened.

Rachel Is it perhaps what happened with Valerie Adams, is that perhaps indicative of in New Zealand sport at the moment, the fact that it's awkwardly balanced a little between amateur and professional, and I mean that on an administrative level?

Murray I think that there is a transition underway, probably several transitions underway and I'm not sure that you'd put this as being part of the process. I think what's happened in London is not I think attributable to anything other than some human error and the lack of good systems. What's been in place for some time, what's been operating in London I gather the practice in London was the same as any other international meeting, so I think you could argue that there's a need for more professionalism in this process, but let's wait for the review, and make up our minds at that point.

Rachel Do you think our athletes perhaps have developed or adapted to professionalism perhaps a little better or sooner than maybe what we have at an administrative level in New Zealand?

Murray I think it's fair to say that some codes are better than others at dealing with modern dynamics, and athletics is probably one that has not made the transition as well as some other sports, I think that’s fair comment.

Rachel What would be some of the other sports that haven’t. Would swimming I guess be one of those?

Murray I think the answer to that is to be found in the review that was completed by Sport New Zealand, or for Sport New Zealand a while ago. Swimming is a sport which does need some work and everyone including the governance people in swimming agree with that. We saw mass resignations in that sport a while ago. I think the conclusions that Chris Moller and his people made were widely endorsed by the sport and I think will go through a building phase. And that’s quite important be we're about to invest in a significant new aquatic centre at the National Training Centre at Millennium which is going to cost about 23 million dollars. The government's not the only funder of that but we are a funder and we will be expecting to see that facility generate good swimming results going forward.

Rachel Some of those quotes in that report from Chris Moller, he talked about swimming being dysfunctional and it had a number of broken relationships, it had blinkered administrators, poor leadership. In essence it was a bit of a rats' nest. What other sports perhaps are suffering maybe from a similar issue at the administrative level.

Murray Oh look there have been other sports that have had varying levels of difficulty over the years. I mean there's Rugby League has gone through some challenges in recent times. Sport New Zealand's gotta walk a very fine line in this area, and I want to emphasise they do this without any political guidance from me. They need to form a view about when things are so serious that they have to use their role as funder to step in and make sure that things are changed, but obviously if they were to do that too lightly you'd end up with the state agency effectively running all sport in New Zealand. So it's a fine line. I actually approve strongly at the way in which Paul Collins and Peter McSkimming and the people at Sport New Zealand use the tools that they have. It's not an easy judgement to make sometimes.

Rachel In saying that, back in 2009 when it was SPRAC they targeted six sports to win medals in London. Three succeeded, sailing, rowing and cycling. Three failed, athletics, triathlon and swimming. Is that do you believe a significant failure that essentially 50% of the sports that were targeted won medals, 50% didn’t?

Murray Oh I think it shows that we've got some significant scope for improvement. I tend to flip it round the other way, and say the outstanding success story in London has been rowing, and it's no accident that rowing has had a high performance centre at Karapiro of very high standard, and have had the resources available in terms of coaching to be able to prepare really well, and of course they had the benefit of the World Championships in New Zealand, as part of the buildup process. We're about to apply the same formula in other sports that we've targeted, so by next games we'll have the velodrome in Hamilton, so a centre of excellence for bike, and that’s going to be critical to stay up with some of the teams that really invest heavily in that sport. We'll have a new aquatic centre as I've mentioned at the National Training Centre on the North Shore of Auckland. We'll have an Ocean Sports Centre at Takapuna, which is going to be completed by the end of next year. That'll be a centre which will benefit sailing in particular, but also other sports like Triathlon will gain from that as well. And so I think that to look positively at this process we need to say that the real message from London is that where a targeted sport has been given the tools to do the job, given the resources, given good infrastructure, they’ve delivered. And the good news is we are well down the track to duplicating that formula in other sports.

Rachel Of those sports though that didn’t achieve we've certainly spoken to a few people and the information if you like or the opinions that we get back is that in some of these sports they are run by enthusiasts if you like. So someone who used to be at the school sports and would tick the time watch on you know swimming, now may be involved at a board level, have simply worked their way up. Do we need perhaps more professionals involved here, less enthusiasts, more experts really when it comes to guiding our athletes in administrating these things?

Murray Look I think if you look back over the last few years, quite a number of years you'll see that we've seen some challenges at the governance level in some codes, and Sport New Zealand going back to before my time has invested in trying to ensure better governance training for those who assume those sorts of offices. But critically we've seen something of a revolving door at chief executive level in some of these sports as well, and that’s I think a demonstration as well that we need to upskill in that area, and again that’s something that including before my time Sport New Zealand's been onto, and I think the formula is right, they just need to keep working at it.

Rachel You talk about these professional academies and what they’ve achieved, and you’ve used rowing as an example. QEII in Christchurch was very much the high performance centre in essence for the South Island. That’s gone now. Would you consider centralising our expert sport institutes if you like, in the same way that Australia has done? Do you think we should centralise and make some single academies for both islands?

Murray Well that essentially is what is happening at the moment. We're seeing the Millennium Institute on the Shore due to the investment of AUT and others, become the National Training Centre. We've seen the previous academies rolled into the new high performance arm of Sport New Zealand – High Performance Sport New Zealand. So there's a one stop shop facility there for athletes. We've added about 50% to the annual budget for high performance sport. So we lifted them from 40 million a year to about 60 million a year, which is quite something at a time when we're cutting other budgets. And so I think what we are seeing is an evolutionary process by which we get to one National Training Centre and some satellites, satellites, at Karapiro and Hamilton, obviously something for ocean sports on the North Shore of Auckland and we'll see something in Christchurch, the shape of which is going to need to be developed in consultation with the Christchurch City Council, but certainly that’s going to be a very important part of the network.

Rachel You mentioned 60 million for high performance, the high performance fund. Is that enough for Rio?

Murray Well I'm sure there will be people to say it's not, but I think it's been a significant contribution to make at a time when other budgets are being cut. I think that we should regard it as being what is fair in the current circumstances. I think there's still quite a challenge to fund some of the infrastructure that we're developing. So we're cornerstone investors in most of these developments. So for example in the cycling centre, the government's contribution is $7 million and the rest is being raised by others, similar formula with regard to the aquatic centre. And so I think we've gotta keep a balance here and say the government should make a cornerstone investment, that’s not just in the facilities but also in the other resources that are required, and challenge others to come to the party. I think there's quite a bit we can still do in the area of philanthropic contributions and also corporate sponsors and partnerships.

Rachel Okay just finally, I think we targeted 10 medals for this games, we achieved that. Are we always going to be though a 10 medal nation unless we can lift the level of administration to a more professional level than what we're seeing in a number of these sports? Is that the best we can expect?

Murray No, I think it's a significant step forward, we've been up against some pretty tough competition, but I look at what's happened in rowing, and I strongly believe that we can get the cyclists into the same sort of space where with really good international quality facilities and other resources we can make sure that they're medalling more. We have to do more in the swimming area, there are a lot of swimming medals contested at the Olympic Games, New Zealand's got to do better in that sport. I think there's a question around what we can do in Hockey. We obviously need the facilities to move ahead on that, but we're talking to partners about how we can make that happen. So I don’t think we're a 10 medal country, I think we are capable of doing pretty close to double that in the right circumstances. We'll have some opportunity around Rio to use the investments that are being made at the moment. But there’ll be a question about what more we're prepared to do after that. But no I think we can go a good deal further than we have in London.

Rachel Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully speaking there.


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