OPINION: When I joined the Touch Southland competition 25 years ago it was a well organised event.
Fast-forward to today, teams must bring their own ref, pay that ref, in a competition where we'll play some teams repeatedly and others not at all.
Our $450 team fee clearly doesn't go towards referees - maybe it supports youth development? Afraid not. Parent-coaches in the primary school competition are expected to referee a side each (if they ask for help, they're directed to the Touch Southland website.)
Incidentally, that website says 2400 children play touch in Southland; if each of them pays the $19 per season that my children pay - that's $93,200 a year (remember there's two summer seasons for school kids); then there's 1700 adults - collectively paying another $42,500 for their 15-week season. So far $133,700 collected in fees. Add to that $126,450 of public money donated by our faithful community funders - the Community Trust of Southland, ILT and ILT Foundation - that's $260,150 (before Housie) to administer a sport played on a public park with a ball.
It all sounds a bit rich to me.
Touch Southland regional manager Warren Bryant replies: Touch is the No 1 summer sport in Southland and the third-biggest sport in Southland, going by player numbers. We are very happy to be compared with other sports in terms of price to play, operating costs, staffing levels, community funding and results at a national level.
The $450 Mr Nally pays for his team fee for a 17-week competition equates to $3.10 per game per player and this includes the referee payment. The maximum charge for school children is $18 per term. It is a seven-week competition, which equates to $2.60 per game per player. Good value by any standards.
We have reluctantly moved to insisting on teams supply a referee this year. Despite concentrated efforts over several years, we are not able to provide a referee for each game, given the large number of teams playing at the Invercargill module. The abuse directed at referees and the lack of people wanting to volunteer their time these days has led to a national crisis in recruiting and retaining referees across all sporting codes. If you have any new suggestions we would be pleased to hear them.
Mr Nally is wondering what happens to the income generated by Touch Southland.
We offer development to all schools in Southland and Queenstown free of charge. In term 3 of this year, development sessions were delivered to 1591 students. All referee costs are fully funded by Touch Southland. We offer school coaching courses and referee courses free of charge. We invest heavily in our youth representative programme, which caters for approximately 250 young people - $46,000 plus coaching and administration costs was spent for 2012-13. We make no apology for this level of investment, which has netted the following results in recent years:
2011 - Southland was the No 1 province in the South Island
2011 - Champion under-17 mixed team at nationals
2012 - Champion under-19 mixed team at nationals
2013 - Under-15, under-17 and open mixed teams, all ranked third in New Zealand
2013 - Nominated for the Southland Sports Awards for Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Team of the Year.
In the past five years, we have had 22 New Zealand representative players come from Southland and two female referees ranked in the top 10. We currently have the eighth-ranked referee in New Zealand.
Our financial accounts are a public document and I am more than happy to sit down and go through the accounts with Mr Nally so that he knows the actual figures and doesn't have to rely on guestimates.
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