High Performance Sport Facing Deep Financial Hole



High Performance sport in New Zealand is facing a grim financial reality as postponed events and shrinking commercial investment combine to create a major funding hole.


Lost revenue in a pandemic-impacted world was a key topic explored by NZ Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley, Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan and All Whites coach Danny Hay in today’s third @unitedviasport webcast on The Future Of Auckland Sport.


While all three panelists lauded the New Zealand Government and Sport New Zealand in making available an unprecedented recovery package, with Hay saying the government injection had been “a lifesaver for sport”, they believe the impact of COVID19 in curtailing events and stifling commercial support is still going to bite hard.


“Our advisors at the New Zealand Olympic Committee are telling us there could be up to forty per cent less money available from sponsorship globally,” Stanley said, adding that COVID could also force a re-direction of sponsor funds towards more social support.


Allied with a drop in event takings in an already fragmented sporting market, with more sports on offer and the rise of eSport, and Stanley says “we have significant financial challenges ahead of us.”


Allan said government support was crucial and hugely appreciated because Paralympics NZ has faced a 70% reduction in gaming and community trust funding…and the worst is yet to come.


“Paralympics New Zealand has been impacted and funds significantly decreased,” Allan said. “(We could lose) up to 100% in donations and funding because it’s not the time to be going out into the community to ask for money. So we’ve put our fundraising endeavours on hold for now.”


Allan says her body’s high performance athletes have been inspirational in their response to the funding, training and playing uncertainty, a point reiterated by Stanley, who says most athletes are adapting, focusing on the processes they can control and not fretting about the big decisions and difficulties that are yet to play out.


Hay says the pandemic has forced innovation in the way governing bodies and coaches interact with their high performers and, in his case, he has made comprehensive adjustments to the way he coaches and communicates.


“Our players are scattered around the world and we are in constant contact because that connection is vital,” Hay said. “Multiple zooms, interaction with sports psychologists, WhatsApp group chat and video conferencing are all now commonplace tools and I regularly send video messages to ensure we’re on the same page.”


Other key talking points on the future of high performance sport, with a focus on Auckland, included having access and contributing knowledge to funding decisions and overcoming a lack of high performance sport facilities by global standards.


“There is an opportunity with infrastructure being developed in the city to have multi-sport hubs created where we can bring sports together and have economies of scale and provide some resources that clubs, schools and community groups can’t do on their own,” Stanley said.


“Auckland is growing rapidly and becoming more urbanised,” he continued. “We need to look where there are deficits in facilities, especially in our fast-growing Auckland communities, and be at the table when decisions are being made.


“We talk about roads, water and key infrastructure and they are key for our health and wellbeing as citizens, but we need to be including social aspects as well. Sport is one of our most important social activities in Auckland and indeed this country and it’s quite different to any other international setting that I’m aware of in terms of its importance to our community.”


Allan says Sport New Zealand has taken a leadership role in connecting sports organisations and creating a collaborative network, but she would welcome a summit with all sports stakeholders to address and workshop every challenge, develop consensus on every issue and seek a collective buy-in for all solutions.


Hay agreed: “There is so much transferable knowledge out there. A lot could be solved by getting a lot of high-quality people with a huge amount of experience and expertise in their own fields together in a room.”


The episode was originally going to be the third and final instalment in The Future of Auckland Sport series, but an extra instalment has been confirmed for Monday 7 September, focusing on Professional Sport and Auckland-based franchises in elite competitions. 


The webcasts have been made possible thanks to the support of Regional Facilities Auckland, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and Auckland Stadiums.