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NZL Fed Chair Resigns Over "Attacks"

Sep 2, 2011  - Craig Lord

Swimming New Zealand chairman Murray Coulter has resigned in the wake of persistent criticism and "personal attacks" following the Ineson Report, a critical Sport And Recreation New Zealand (Sparc) review into the federation's work released in June.

The report described SNZ's high performance environment as being negative, a culture of distrust and lack of confidence in leadership among key concerns. The report was ordered by Sparc after what were regarded as disappointing results for New Zealand in 2009 and 2010.

Coulter told a New Zealand press agency that change was needed to deliver "vibrant, healthy and viable clubs" but while he wanted to play a part in a brighter future his role as chairman was standing in the way. He will stand down at the federation's AGM this month.

"I am very distressed at the personal attacks our staff and board are currently enduring," Coulter told the agency. "I am proud of the professional way each has responded, most especially our dedicated and hard-working staff. If I remain I will damage our sport and I am not prepared to do that. These attacks mean that a small number of people are bringing our sport into disrepute. I hope my standing down will help us move past the negativity and help begin the process of change we know that our sport desperately needs.''

Proposals sent for the AGM seek to remove powers from the federation board and, said Coulter, ought to be resisted. "Should the organisation not stabilise its governance function, then it will become truly ungovernable," he said. "I do not want that for our members, be they learning to swim, aiming for the London podium or working and volunteering as coaches, officials or staff in our great sport.''

Coulter said the board believed the organisation was at a crossroads but that a "dissident few were acting without mandate to steer the sport into dangerous waters", according to the agency report.

At the centre of the schism is Project Vanguard, a board-led initiative that aims to promote a clubs led structure in favour of the regional structure of governance that prevails. 

Regardless of whether systems are governed centrally, regionally or more locally at club level, the title in the words that make up SPARC's name tells a tale of its own: the relationship between sport and leisure is often a conflicting one, in which at club level the world over there is often a divide between those who wish to pursue world-class performance and those who want less (but may not want anyone else to have what they have not got).

Meanwhile, serious coaches and swimmers are likely to be getting on with the business of preparing for success in the cauldron of international competition.