20 Feb 2019

Black Sticks backer freezes funding

3:10 pm on 20 February 2019

Sir Owen Glenn has suspended funding of the New Zealand women's hockey team because of his concerns over the resignation of former coach Mark Hager.

NZ coach Mark Hager.
New Zealand Black Sticks Hockey World League Final. 2017

Former Black Sticks coach Mark Hager talks to the team. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hockey New Zealand (HNZ) confirmed on Wednesday the Auckland businessman's payments to players in the 25-player Black Sticks women's squad for last month were not made.

The players were still paid by the national body from money already budgeted for the teams, but this month's payments from Glenn were still under negotiation.

It was announced in October the businessman would provide $1 million to each of the men's and women's national squads over the next two years.

The government, through High Performance Sport New Zealand, are matching that $2 million injection this year.

Glenn's decision to halt his funding comes after Black Sticks women's coach Mark Hager resigned last month to take charge of the Great Britain women's side.

A review has been conducted into the women's environment after allegations of a negative team culture, with the findings set to be released on Monday.

Glenn said he had questions about the departure of Hager, who coached the Black Sticks for 10 years, took them from 10th in the world rankings to third and led them to a gold medal at last year's Commonwealth Games.

"I thought 'hang on a minute'. I supported Mark and persuaded him to stay, I backed him and inadvertently supported him financially," he told NZME.

"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.

Sir Owen Glenn.

Sir Owen Glenn. Photo: Photosport

"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?".

The public release of the findings and recommendations of the review into the Black Sticks women's squad next week will come more than a month after HNZ received the report.

But HNZ board chair Mike Bignell said they had their reasons for the process taking so long and, after a meeting with Glenn in Sydney recently, were working through the issues he had.

"He's entitled to his views... we respect those opinions and it's only reasonable in a partnership that we have that proper give-and-take," Bignell told NZME.

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

"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."

On Wednesday, HNZ reiterated in a statement they were working with Glenn to resolve the situation.

"As a key funding partner, Sir Owen has been concerned about Mark Hager's resignation - like Hockey New Zealand, he considered Mark to be the coach who would take the Black Sticks women's team to Tokyo.

"We are currently working through Sir Owen's concerns with him, and are hopeful of a positive outcome of continued support for the team."

Hockey New Zealand Players Association executive manager Glen Sulzberger was reticent to comment, but admitted they were concerned about the potential impact the situation could have on the players going forward.

He was hopeful the players association would be in a position to comment more fully on Monday, when the report is released.

Glenn had been contacted by RNZ for comment.