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AUS CEO Quits; Fed Asks "What's The Job"

Nov 22, 2012  - Craig Lord

Kevin Neil has resigned as Chief Executive of Swimming Australia, a move that the board of the federation accepted today in the midst of reviews into Australian performances at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Newly elected Swimming Australia President, Barclay Nettlefold said that Neil’s mutually agreed departure will now see the Board undertake a review of its administrative, sporting and business direction. 

That statement was the closest the federation came to admitting, alongside words of praise and thanks, that something had gone wrong. A process is underway, blame the thing least worthy of the time and energy of a nation that wishes to find solutions and intends to do just that, while recognising that such things are easier if the man in charge during troubled times falls on his sword.

"As a newly elected Board, we are currently proactively examining all aspects of our sport from the grassroots to the elite level,” said Nettlefold. "One of our clear objectives is to ensure the high performance area of the sport rises to meet and exceeds the growing international competition challenges. We are 100 per cent committed to ensuring our elite national programs are well resourced and fully supported at every level to ensure optimum swimming performance. We will now examine what primary areas of expertise the new CEO is required to have to meet the immediate and long-term vision of the sport."

Jeremy Turner, a board member who has had "vast business experience in Queensland", the federation noted, has agreed to serve as interim CEO until a new CEO is appointed.

Neil, a Board Member prior to his appointment as CEO in 2008, said: “I have witnessed great changes and seen how swimming continues to be Australia’s premier Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport. I am proud to have played a role in this development and the enhancement of the sport’s revenue base.

"Following the below expected results at the London Olympic Games, swimming is now undertaking various reviews to set the new course for the future and it is therefore appropriate to step aside to allow the sport to progress to its next exciting phase."

Good for Neil, one of a few CEOs who emerged from London 2012 to face review and inquiry - but the only one to resign so far, despite the fact that Australia, with one gold in 10 medals was still far more successful than most others wilting under the heat of American success, the advance of China and their own underperformance.

Nettlefold thanked Neil for his services, noting: "Under Kevin’s leadership, Swimming Australia increased its revenue by 40% and instigated several new developments such as the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series involving China and South Africa in Perth, where $500,000 is offered in prize money to swimmers.

"Kevin was also instrumental in negotiating a new broadcast deal with Network Ten, the implementation of a range of important initiatives targeted at growing the sport at a community level, and the development of an aquatic facilities strategy targeted at protecting access to water space for swimming clubs and building relationships with pool operators."

One big thing that changed radically when neil came to power was the replacement of Ian Hanson and team as the media service for Swimming Australia. From an outside perspective and one of many international journalists who benefited from working with Hanson, that move made no sense, Hanson's knowledge - media and swimming - and handling one of the finest examples of how federations can gainfully engage with the world media. 

Something for Turner and Co to consider, perhaps. Turner is Director and Principal Consultant of Momentum Consultancy Group and was Chief Financial Officer of Queensland Motorways Limited and CEO of Queensland Racing, the swim federation noted. He is not seeking to occupy the CEO role on a permanent basis.

 Mr Nettlefold said the Board is currently determining the process in appointing a new CEO and further details of this procedure are expected to be announced shortly. The board intends to make an appointment within four months.