Where’s this going, ODT?

If “the model is broken”, then what is the solution? And what does “cutting our cloth to fit” really mean?

### ODT Online Sat, 11 Feb 2012
Has money ruined sport?
By Hayden Meikle
Professional sport in Otago and New Zealand. Discuss. Is professionalism ruining sport? Or enhancing it? […] we hope to stir up some debate with our series, Survival Game, which will appear in the Otago Daily Times over the next week. Prompted by the severe financial troubles encountered by, principally but not exclusively, the Highlanders, Otago rugby and now the Steel netball franchise, our series will look at some of the issues vexing the professional codes. We start today with some background to the struggles suffered by organisations in the South and in other parts of the country.
Read more


Have a succession of greedy/arrogant/incompetent administrators and players taken YOUR teams and put them in grave danger of collapsing?

Other sport: Professional sports’ battle all-embracing
Doom and gloom in sport used to refer to Rugby World Cup droughts, or being bowled out for 26. Now it is more likely to refer to balance sheets and bad debts. Beginning our series examining the state of professional sport, sports editor Hayden Meikle gives an overview of the issues to debate.

Related Posts:
14.12.11 Davies “in the middle of a conversation”…
2.12.11 DVML gets into bed with ORFU
13.10.11 MAD Classics #26 – You’re a crook or a businessman?

Note: ODT recently took up sponsorship of the east stand at ‘Otago Stadium’…
12.11.11 The little horrors 2

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Economics, Events, Fun, Geography, Heritage, Hot air, Media, People, Politics, Project management, Sport, Stadiums

16 responses to “Where’s this going, ODT?

  1. Anonymous

    The ODT has got it arse backwards. It must stop protecting the council and its preferred stadium councillors. It has to move council sympathisers to other editorial rounds. It needs to start pushing the council into the corner. It may lose some promised advertising but it will still get the lion’s share of the budget. What it will lose in advertising it will gain much more in subscriptions and readership. It will win back lost respect and loyalty. The paper says to put the past behind us and move on but it must do the same and help fight for the city’s best interests. The city can prosper again if you are prepared to help rebuild its future.

  2. amanda kennedy

    Too little, too late dear ODT. People were asking these questions two or three years ago. Mr Meikle, Sir, you are so far behind the times.

  3. Calvin Oaten

    Hello Hayden,
    Interesting opening comments from you on the very vexing problems of ‘professional sports’. To me, it all seems to boil down to the frailties of what are/were amateur, dedicated, stalwart people who genuinely love their respective sports being hoodwinked by profiteering ‘moguls’.

    Rugby, being our pre-eminent sport was first out of the blocks, followed later by the rest. All, it seems, have adopted the same “flawed business plan”, developed on the promise that greater public exposure would automatically open the way to great riches and expansion of the respective codes. True, in a manner, for the promoters, who, I note play a background role. Who are these people? Try Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer for starters. They both were heavily invested in the future of “Pay TV” and they readily saw that the main growth was to come from the ‘proletariate’, not the intellectuals.

    Sport, that was where the answer lay. They already had the example of the Northern Hemisphere Football code to go by. Never mind that in Australia and New Zealand combined, there was never going to be the population to sustain a comparable operation. The tyranny of distance was also a major hurdle. If ‘Sky TV’ and ‘Channel 7’ were going to be profitable they had to coattail on the free venues essential for the promotion of their plans. So, it had to be packaged as a deal that would enhance and enrich the respective codes, and the “Star personality” promoted. Capture the public euphoria.

    This requires sumptuous surroundings, establishment of elitism, make the event an experience. Sell the “sizzle” never mind the sausage. This has been done, and the media people have done very well out of it.

    The hapless people operating the codes, the NZRFU for example, got converted and undertook to provide the necessary product in return for what they saw as a financial bonanza for their business. Promotional contracts saw money the likes of which had never been seen flowing in. But the cash was flowing out the other door as these people got way out of their league – running a business which was totally dependent on spectator support, or “bums on seats”. These had, unfortunately been filched by the self same promoters, TV, as intended. The game was blinded by the ever increasing number of events, in the thought that the answer lay in volume. Again, that played into the hands of the promoters. Expenses increased and budgets blew. The community was inveigled into buying into the ruse. Here in Dunedin we, the community have provided a $250 to $300 million stadium, fully debt funded by the citizens, in the belief that this was to be the ‘Mecca’ of social activity for all citizens. Did the professional promoters invest? Not a cent.

    Now, after just fifteen years, the code of professional rugby is technically bankrupt, and calling for help from all quarters. The grassroots people are disenchanted, the citizens are staying away in droves. The public bodies are in deep financial trouble, and there is no way out. The smart thing to do would be to pull the plug now and hope the game can survive and rebuild on the basis of a peoples’ sport. Can’t happen yet. Why? Because it is not in the nature of the “leaders” to admit that they were wrong. Worse, it would mean that they were duped by the original promoters, who will by then have moved on to some other profitable ventures. We will be left savaged by debt, to work it out over who knows how many years.

    It is a global phenomenon, repeated everywhere, just look at the Olympic Games four-yearly extravaganzas which have whole nations scrambling over each other for the glory of spending themselves into penury. And who gains? Some athletes get the glory and the riches, the rest get quickly forgotten and the hosting societies are left with the burden of paying for it all. So why do we do it? I do not know, must be a genetic frailty, more pronounced in public-office-seeking people than in others. When spending other people’s monies nothing is a bother. Just look at our council and the Government over the recent Rugby World Cup. A huge ego trip for the nation but a national financial disaster. And now we are down to the local scene, broke, facing a sport which may never recover. For what?

    So, in answer to your question: “Has money ruined sport?” Indubitably YES!!

  4. Peter

    Frankly, I couldn’t give a damn about the solutions. As long as these ‘professional’ bodies, like the ORFU, don’t continue to steal off the ratepayers in this community, and others, it’s their problem. Not ours. If this ‘new found recognition’ of their continued financial woes is a plea for help… from us again… forget it.
    The ORFU has started to get rid of excess employees. Good start. Next they should amalgamate with Southland and/or Canterbury into a new lower South Island franchise to cut costs.
    The ORFU is still lumbered with wankers who like to use helicopters for public and personal family events. All show and no substance. Until these people are rooted out, there is no chance for real reform.

  5. Russell Garbutt

    Professional Sport is an oxymoron. Sport that has turned professional is a business.

    A successful business is one that returns a profit to its shareholders and it doesn’t usually matter a whit the content of the business. As was pointed out to me many years ago, Kodak, Agfa and Fuji were not in the business of colour film, they were in the business of making money and colour film was the best way of doing this at the time. If we look at “sport” we have to look at who is making the most money, and it is wiithout question, television.

    It is worthwhile spending just a little time examing the relationships that exist within the triangle of the components of television, sport and the viewer. Television broadcasts the event which to it is simply content. Viewers watch the content and deliver ratings to the broadcaster. The higher the number of viewers, the higher the rating and the more the broadcaster is willing to pay to the arranger of the content. The broadcaster delivers those ratings to the advertiser. The higher the rating, the more the broadcaster can charge the advertiser. Look at, for example, the cost of a 30-second slot during the Super Bowl. The advertiser knows a huge number of people are watching, so they get exposure and they deliver to the viewer information or an enticement to spend on their product.

    What can be seen is that the whole series of interactions rely on some sort of popular content being available. If for any reason the content is unattractive to the viewer, then the content is less valuable to the broadcaster, the less they are willing to pay for rights and any industry or business the content provider has is put at risk.

    So, what have we witnessed in rugby, netball, basketball, and maybe surprisingly, something like rowing?

    The first is that the administration of the sport continues in the main to be carried out by those that may have experience in running an amateur code, but little experience in running a business.

    The second is that the basic premises of business – mainly that the costs must be less than the income – are ignored.

    Thirdly, the performers are now possibly in the international market. Large markets can afford more than small markets. And New Zealand is a very small market. We need to be reminded that we are no bigger than Sydney. But the performers have opportunities to ply their trade in bigger markets – no different if they were an actor, a classical music performer. To retain the services of the performers the small market has to pay big market rates, and immediately the home business is at risk because the costs are now greater than the income.

    International sport has killed the codes that it has become involved with. Rugby and netball are minority sports and in the big scheme of things not really worth worrying about apart from the fact that the professional conversion of these codes have wrecked community economies throughout New Zealand through their demands met by equally incompetent community leaders. But they have also wrecked the amateur code on which they are based. In rowing, which is a much more international sport than either rugby or netball, all promising club rowers are now syphoned off to professional squads. The New Zealand Club Championships has, since professional conversion, changed from a gathering of amateur clubs with hundreds of competitors to a bunch of school rowers and a bunch of high performance squads operating as professionals. Club rowing is now effectively dead.

    The Otago Daily Times has been aware of this state of affairs for years and has chosen to be seen as a strong supporter of professionalism in sport. This concern at this stage is really much too little, much too late.

  6. pat adamson

    Bang on Anonymous. The ODT should be examining ALL the Councillors’ decisions and see what has common sense. Get a view from its many readers and weigh things up and put their view forward. The ODT could have an important part to play in this city and gain respect that it hasn’t got now. It’s alright bowing down to the big boys but they don’t pay the bills, just sponge off the Ratepayers. Get some standing with the people and stop being a mouthpiece for those who think they are bigger than their boots.

  7. Calvin Oaten

    Hayden Meikle may have just opened a ‘can of worms’. Watch it get quietly closed and buried. Just how he does that will be interesting to see. Big brother will be watching him also. Job on the line?

  8. Hype O'Thermia

    I’d have sworn it had natural immunity but perhaps that was only to the rapid-onset version. Looks like the oddity may have caught Creeping Zeitgeist.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Wed, 15 Feb 2012
      Opinion: Hoodwinked by business moguls
      By Calvin Oaten
      To me, it all seems to boil down to the frailties of what are/were amateur, dedicated, stalwart people who genuinely love their respective sports being hoodwinked by profiteering “moguls”. Rugby, our pre-eminent sport, was first out of the blocks, followed later by the rest. All, it seems, have adopted the same “flawed business plan”, developed on the promise that greater public exposure would automatically open the way to great riches and expansion of the respective codes.

      Here in Dunedin we, the community, have provided a $250 million to $300 million stadium, fully debt funded by the citizens, in the belief that this was to be the mecca of social activity for all citizens. Did the professional promoters invest? Not a cent.

      Read more

  9. amanda kennedy

    Yes, it ironic that the genuine sport and rugby lover has been conned into supporting the stadium which will bleed this city dry if we let it. An economically bankrupt city is not in such a good position to support sports unfortunately. Brown, Hudson and co. wanted their stadium; economics be damned. I never thought it was for the love of the game, it is for stakeholders to keep on feeding at the ratepayers trough, and Hudson and mates are waiting there ready to hand out any funds the Old Boys and Corporate rugby toadies want. Cronyism, alive and well as long as Hudson and mates are on council.

  10. Phil

    I read a piece of dodgy national journalism today regarding the DCC that, for once, doesn’t fall back at the door of the ODT. A lucky escape for them. The article was regarding the cost of graffiti removal in various main centres throughout the country. The investigative journalist, for what of a better term, had determined, after extensive rersearch, that Dunedin had the lowest cost for graffiti removal of the centres surveyed. A professor at AUT then went further and explained why this was so.

    It was all great, except for one minor flaw. It was bollocks.

    The article gave a figure for the cost to City Property for the cost of graffiti removal in Dunedin. I have no reason to doubt that figure. However, City Property only removes graffiti from DCC owned buildings which are owned by City Property. And those, with the exception of the public toilets, are high profile public buildings which are rarely tagged. The departments who look after the sportsfields, bridges, viaducts, skateboard parks, playgrounds, etc, all arrange and pay for their own graffiti removal. Their costs make City Property’s costs look like chicken feed.

    In defence of the journalist, I can imagine the scenario where she phoned the front desk at DCC, asked about graffiti on buildings, the call centre person thought “Buildings? That sounds like Property”. The person at City Property (and I assume it was Ms Abercrombie who seems to crave the press) never stopped to think that they were only giving a small portion of the information that the journalist sought, and the journalist never thought to ask if that was the only department involved.

    A classic comedy of errors, the winner of which is undoubtably the professor who attempted to add credibility to false figures. Nothing like getting caught out doing a bit of chest thumping.

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