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Sports funding model blamed for athlete welfare issues

Newshub logoNewshub 5/12/2018 Grant Chapman
a group of men riding on the back of a bicycle © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

Sport New Zealand has pointed a finger at the current high-performance funding model as a risk to athlete rights and welfare.

Sports lawyer Stephen Cottrell has concluded an investigation, as part of an overall review of sports integrity, based on interviews with 107 elite athletes, coaches and high performance staff, athlete managers and the Athletes' Commission.

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His findings, contained in a 120-page report, echo those of other national sporting organisations that have addressed 'bullying' charges within their ranks this year.

"Mr Cottrell's findings are consistent with what we have learned through the various other reviews conducted by high performance sporting organisations since this project was commissioned," says Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin.

"At the same time, it gives us and others in the system - including NSOs and their athletes - valuable insights and some things to consider, both individually and collectively."

Several sports have faced welfare issues in recent months - notably cycling, hockey, rowing and football - with some national coaches losing their jobs for allegedly violating athletes' rights.

Track cycling supremo Anthony Peden left the national sprint programme amid accusations of bullying and an inappropriate relationship with one of his athletes.

A common identified threat to those athletes' rights has been a funding model that seems to reward performance at all costs.

"There is a strong perception that the current High Performance Sport New Zealand [HPSNZ] funding model overwhelmingly prioritises short term performance goals, and that is the key factor determining the level of funding for each NSO and elite athlete," says Cottrell.

"In simple terms, the current model focuses on performance outcomes, not welfare considerations."  

Among his recommendations, Cottrell suggests: "The HPSNZ funding model is reviewed to find the optimal balance between short-term performance goals and long, sustainable development.

"In reviewing their funding model, Sport NZ and HPSNZ determine whether their vision and purpose are too focused on performance outcomes, and whether the holistic needs of the athlete are given enough recognition and importance, while also considering how NSOs can be better equipped and resourced to meet their obligations to participants in their high-performance environments."


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