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Kiwi Report Says 'Boot The Board Out'

May 18, 2012  - Craig Lord

The chief executive of Swimming New Zealand Mike Byrne is reported to have cleared out his office in readiness for quitting after an independent review of the sport in his country recommended that the entire board resign and the role of chief executive be overhauled.

The review, carried out by the former chief executive of the New Zealand rugby union Chris Moller, was undertaken after a falling out between the national body and its regional organisations over the governance of governance.

In a statement Byrne expressed his disappointment with the findings and told Radio New Zealand that in his five years in the role, he's taken the organisation from a NZ$280,000 deficit to having accumulated funds of NZ$430,000. None of which, even if accurate, means the sport is being run properly, critics will doubtless point out.

The report was presented to the sport and regions around New Zealand before its findings were made public.

Auckland Swimming CEO Brian Palmer was reported to be delighted, telling Kiwi media: "My initial reaction is that Chris Moller and his team have done a very, very good job of dealing with a very difficult situation and I think that their recommendations are very constructive."

New Zealand media report today "anger and tears" among staff at Swimming NZ's Wellington headquarters. Byrne is reported to have sought legal advice over a severance package.

Fairfax news outlets reported: "Staggering and deep-set problems within the organisation were revealed before an audience of 46 people - including national swimming icon Danyon Loader - citing major transparency issues around Olympic athletes, poor leadership and a dysfunctional relationship between Swimming NZ and its own stakeholders. But with this taxpayer-funded review the third major investigation of swimming in four years, Moller demanded the 17 recommendations be implemented quickly, and in full. The sport, Moller said, must not be allowed to "cherry pick" changes."

The swimming community has until May 28 to offer feedback on the provisional recommendations, while a general meeting is planned for July 1. Moller described the timing of the review, on the eve of the London Olympics, was "unfortunate, but unavoidable", However, he repeated a call for the swimming community to "stop playing the man and start playing the ball".

You can catch up on the depth of acrimony in New Zealand in several posts at the SwimWatch blog of Kiwi coach David Wright.