Softball special meeting will seek changes

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012

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Softball New Zealand is refusing to respond to widespread criticism by provincial associations until a special general meeting in Wellington next month.

Ten associations, including provincial powerhouses Auckland, Hutt Valley, Wellington and Canterbury, called for the crisis meeting and are pushing for a "high-energy change manager" to be appointed to turn around a sport they claim has been in decline since the 1990s.

Softball New Zealand (SNZ) confirmed yesterday the special meeting will be held on December 15 at its Lower Hutt headquarters.

The national body had no option but to accede to the demand because the provinces had more than the 51 per cent majority of voting strength required to call a special general meeting.

The critics set out a raft of concerns in a document entitled Rebuilding Our Foundations.

They alleged softball, a "once-thriving" sport with a proud international record was now "in a precarious position" and was "losing its edge on and off the diamond".

The paper argued softball - which lost $300,000 in funding from the New Zealand Community Trust this year - was at a crossroads and could be "totally derailed" if its "declining fortunes" were not addressed soon.

SNZ general manager Dane Dougan yesterday declined to discuss in detail the substantive concerns raised by the associations.

"We are just working through that now and we will definitely report on the 15th of December when we sit down with the associations.

"We are going into the meeting with an open mind."

Dougan admitted SNZ was operating "in a pretty tough environment", particularly in terms of fundraising, sponsorship and raising the sport's profile - all areas of concern identified by the associations, who also fear High Performance Sport New Zealand may no longer fund softball and community programme funding could be cut unless changes are made.

But Dougan said he was "pretty comfortable" with SNZ's performance in the "3 to four years" since he started and felt softball had "a good relationship" with High Performance New Zealand and its funding was secure.

SNZ had about 30,000 members and had experienced "some growth for three of the last four years", Dougan said.

The 10 associations are calling for better delivery in media strategy, better relationships with regional sports trust and charitable funding organisations and want "a working group of quality people" set up to create a new vision for softball.

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