The lucrative business of High Performance Sport NZ

High Performance Sport NZ employs 41 people on six-figure salaries, athletes receive performance enhancement grants ranging from $60,000, before tax, for a gold medallist, down to $25,000 for someone ranked in the top 12 in the world.

Of course, the athletes’ benefits are not limited to their grants. They have access to funded coaches and physiotherapy, and advice on sports science, psychology, medicine and nutrition. Some of them can attract sponsorship, personally or through their national sports bodies, that help to cover the expenses of travelling and living part of the year in foreign countries for the competition they need. But most of them cannot afford to give up a regular job. They have to fit in daily training around working hours and beg time off for tournaments and events.

If they achieve their dream, and give their country the thrill of an Olympic medal too, the financial rewards for some are not limited to the sums they get from the public purse, but they say it is a myth that a medal can make them rich. Becoming a big name in a country of New Zealand’s size offers limited returns for sponsors

So it’s easy to see why double-gold medallists Mahe Drysdale and Valerie Adams and sailing’s Jo Aleh can look at the salaries of those who parcel out the public funds and wonder whether more of the money should not be coming to athletes and coaches. They undoubtedly express the sentiments of many athletes and coaches in the system. The three who have spoken out have been highly successful and it is hard to argue with success.

But that is also true of High Performance Sport NZ. The record medal tally at Rio owes something to the funding decisions of chief executive Alex Baumann (salary last year $420,000 – $430,000) and the other 40 staff paid in excess of $100,000.

In sports administration, as in business and public service, it is easy for those outside to suppose leading a successful organisation is not hard. It is. Leading people requires qualities not given to everyone. There is a limited supply of proven leaders who can give an organisation direction and drive and maintain the confidence of people in their team. It takes good salaries to attract and retain those who can do it.

An unusually level headed editorial from the NZ Herald. ?It takes money to attract and retrain the right people to run Sport NZ, and the result can’t be argued with. ?The answer to the green-eyed whinging sports people is simple: ?Fine. ?Do it all by yourself then.


– NZ Herald