Black Sticks Funding Frozen

Sir Owen Glenn has frozen funding to the Black Sticks women’s hockey programme because of dissatisfaction with the sport’s governance.

In October the businessman committed $1 million each to the country’s top male and female teams over the next two years.

That figure doubles this year with the taxpayer contribution through High Performance Sport New Zealand.

This month’s Glenn payments, which are distributed directly to the 25-strong contracted squad members, have been suspended. Hockey New Zealand has dipped into its reserves while negotiations continue.

Glenn was a key supporter of former women’s coach Mark Hager. Hager resigned last month to take over as coach of the British and English teams leading to the Tokyo Olympics.

His decade-long Black Sticks tenure culminated in a maiden gold medal at April’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Hager also took the team to two Olympic fourths, two World League finals and a Champions Trophy bronze.

However, a review into the women’s environment was launched in September by employment lawyer Maria Dew after allegations of negativity. The findings are expected on Monday.

Hager, a former Australian international, accidentally sent an email to the entire team in August, admonishing individuals for their World Cup performance where the team finished 11th.

Glenn felt compelled to defend a beleaguered friend.

“I thought ‘hang on a minute’. I supported Mark and persuaded him to stay, I backed him and inadvertently supported him financially.

“If I’m putting $2 million behind hockey [across the next two years] I think there should at the very least be courtesy and respect so I know what’s going on. I put my terms and conditions to the hockey board of what I want to see, including the report [review] which has been mysteriously under wraps.

“I want proper governance and transparency, and I think the whole of hockey does too. The guy [Hager] took us from 12th in Beijing [Olympics] to winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal. What did he do wrong?”

Hockey New Zealand board chairman Mike Bignell was part of a delegation which met with Glenn recently in Sydney to discuss the funding issue.

“He’s gone out of his way to help the players. It’s a tough gig [being a top-level hockey player] so any support they get is really important.

“He’s entitled to his views and we have to work them through with him. We respect those opinions and it’s only reasonable in a partnership that we have that proper give-and-take.

“We’ve got to make him feel comfortable that his investment into hockey and the players is well worth it.”

Bignell defended the decision to keep review details under lock and key, even away from Glenn’s eyes.

“We’ve been mindful of everyone’s privacy and confidentiality. That’s why it’s taken us until Monday to release this. We have to wait for players and others [consulted] to be in a position where they can hear those findings first.”

Glenn says he struggled to find any issue with the team, and used the Commonwealth Games as an example.

“I was at every game, I’d talk to the players and coach – in fact Mark and I would talk every week – and for this to happen…

“The hockey board said they supported him, but thank God they’re not in the trenches next to me.”

Glenn also donated $3 million to the New Zealand Olympic Committee for their Tokyo 2020 campaign at a gala function in December.

By: NZ Herald


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