The lure of the dollar means New Zealand and other small
countries face a tough task fighting the "brawn drain" of top
athletic and coaching talent heading offshore, University of
Otago senior physical education lecturer Dr Mike Sam says.
Dr Sam was speaking ahead of the Otago School of Physical
Education's symposium, The Future of Sport in Small Nations,
where researchers, policy-makers, administrators and sports
journalists will examine the challenges countries with small
populations face in the world of international sport.
If New Zealand wanted to continue to punch above its weight
as it did at the London Olympics - where it came fourth in
the overall medal count relative to population - it would
need to invest more money to keep talent here, Dr Sam said.
While the most obvious form of the "brawn drain" was the
steady stream of rugby players leaving for Europe and Japan,
New Zealand also faced a tough task keeping its coaching and
This would only become more difficult as countries starting
to develop their sport systems, such as India and Brazil, or
"emerging middle powers" France, Italy and Korea, invested
more in sport.
Such countries could, for example, decide to poach New
Zealand's top rowing or Sevens coaching staff.
"If the country and the politicians decide that is a
priority, then certainly there will have to be
ever-increasing amounts of money put into high performance
sports," he said.
"There are only so many medals to go around." Asked how New
Zealand had continued to stay competitive, Dr Sam said Sport
New Zealand would say "narrowed investment" and
"cherry-picking" top sports and athletes had kept New Zealand
ahead of the pack.
"To some extent that has worked, but it is hard to
differentiate between that and the fact that the amount of
money into high performance sport has quadrupled in the last
Government funding into sport had grown from $17 million in
2002 to $76 million in 2011-12, he said.
The symposium will be held from November 21-23.