After the heartbreak in San Francisco four years ago, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) boss Grant Dalton needed financial help to re-sign key personnel, and he needed it fast.
The New Zealand Government duly stumped up nearly $5 million over an eight-month period to push-start the next campaign. Now, having recently won the America’s Cup in Bermuda, ETNZ has been granted another $5 million to help with their cup defence, presumably in Auckland in 2021 or 2022.
The money was provided because, according to Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges, the team’s talent was enticing to other syndicates, and the funding would help protect “the skills that rest with key team members”.
My question is whether they need a Government contribution at all? It’s not like ETNZ is short of financial support. Without knowing all the intimate details, the team has been heavily financed by wealthy businessmen and philanthropists Sir Stephen Tindall and Matteo de Nora.
These guys aren’t short of dosh. Neither are principal sponsor Emirates or the dozens of other sponsors on board (have a look at the ETNZ web site for the full list — it’s quite impressive).
And really, this is the guts of the argument. With so much private wealth at their disposal, is state funding really required? Can that $5m tab not be picked up by the aforementioned?
The argument for Government funding is that there is a guaranteed “return on investment”. You’ll hear this term used constantly in the justification of the decision to support ETNZ. And although this may be true — more than $5m will be recouped in taxes etc — it doesn’t change the fact Dalton and co don’t actually need the money.
Five million dollars is still five million dollars, and could be better spent on other economic development projects.
And, yes, the Government does dish out funds to plenty of other sports in New Zealand annually in the form of high performance grants.
But that money is for national sports organisations to fund elite programmes through better investment in coaching, facilities and equipment.
For the record, Yachting NZ can expect
$3.7 million in 2017, thanks largely to a very successful Olympic programme in Rio last year.
Rowing ($5.1m) is the only sport in New Zealand this year that will receive more funding than the privately-run ETNZ syndicate.
Other sports can only dream of accessing the wealth of ETNZ’s backers, and other administrators must despair in the knowledge they also get propped up unnecessarily by our country’s leaders.
However, the taxpayer spend for this successful campaign is nothing compared to the $38 million spent by the Labour Government on Team NZ’s failed efforts in 2007.
It just goes to show — state-sponsorship isn’t essential to winning the America’s Cup. It really is a game for wealthy benefactors. Still, I guess $5m does help. Easy money if you can get it.
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The win by ETNZ over Oracle USA really was a tremendous performance. They only lost one race to the American syndicate, having been beaten twice in the round-robin series.
There was even talk ETNZ helmsman Peter Burling had been foxing in the race pre-starts prior to the finals to lull rival Jimmy Spithill into a false sense of security.
I’m not sure if I buy that because ETNZ sailing coach Murray Jones told Radio Sport Burling had been improving the whole way along, and timed his run beautifully for when it really mattered.
The boat handling of the crew was immaculate, and to think they could be that impressive after they pitch-poled the boat on June 7 now seems quite incredible.
ETNZ’s Australian skipper Glenn Ashby was the sole remaining sailor on board from the failure in 2013, and admitted the previous four years had been some of the most stressful of his yachting career.
Here was a man who was as relieved as he was happy, and it was hard not to feel pleased for him in particular. And Grant Dalton, after years of trying, finally has his hands on yachting’s oldest prize.
What does ETNZ do with the next regatta? Where in Auckland will the event be held, and in what class of boat?
There have been hints a return to a monohull is the preferred option, but that has to be agreed to by the challenger of record, Luna Rossa from Italy.
It is expected the protocols and rules for the 36th edition of the America’s Cup will be released soon. And if Auckland can put on a show as good as Bermuda did, it’ll be gripping to watch.