HMBNZ: We made them recognize us

In 2021, HMBNZ was recognised as a National Sport Organisation by Sport NZ, with a new subcategory of ‘medieval’ sports created specifically to cater to the specificity of HMB.

Historical Medieval Battle New Zealand (HMBNZ) is the National HMB Federation of New Zealand, affiliated with HMBIA through a memorandum of Friendship and Cooperation since 2014. Its role is to oversee the HMB-related activities (tournaments, open days, and workshops) and to provide support, guidance to the participants as well as liaising with the international organisation. The structure of HMBNZ is modelled after HMBIA – it has a board consisting of the President, the Vice-President (Secretary) and the Treasurer. Club representatives and representatives of the Authenticity and Marshals’ committees, as well as the Women’s Representative, Medic Guild Representative form the HMBNZ Council that provides guidance to the Board and advice and support to the membership. HMBNZ is the organisation that unites not only the fighters but the supporters of the HMB sport as well.

In 2021, HMBNZ was recognised as a National Sport Organisation by Sport NZ, with a new subcategory of ‘medieval’ sports created specifically to cater to the specificity of HMB. Sport NZ is the government agency established under New Zealand Law (Sport and Recreation Act 2002) that provides advice and support for organisations working in physical recreation and sport at national, regional, and local levels. 

The President of HMBNZ, Dayna Berghan-Whyman, is answering the questions regarding the process:

Q: When has the process of recognition started? 

Since the foundation of the organisation of HMB in New Zealand in 2012, the federation was ceaselessly trying to get the sport of HMB into the spotlight. I was inspired by the presentation delivered by Edouard Eme, HMBIA President, at the 2020 HMBIA General Assembly when he outlined the work that HMBIA had done to meet the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In February 2021, the Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service (SRCMS) was established in New Zealand as a separate entity funded by Sports NZ. The service is a body of legal advisers and specialists in conflict mediation and resolution, I thought it would be very useful for the HMB membership to get access to this level of expertise. I contacted the SRCMC to get the sport of HMB included in the service so athletes and squires would be able to resolve their conflicts beyond the list with the professionals.

Initially, the SRCMS had no way of triaging the sport of HMB because there was no category of medieval sport. It was at this point where what initially began as an exercise to get HMB recognised, turned into a mission to get medieval combat as a sport category in New Zealand – this encompassed the medieval re-enactment, Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), and the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) communities. HMBNZ was going to be the initial test case on behalf of our medieval combat brothers and sisters.

Q: What kind of resources did you use as evidence that HMB can be considered as such? (Websites, pictures, video?)

HMB is a spectacular sport with plenty of materials to pick and choose from. I cannot thank HMBIA enough for their comprehensive website! It has all the sections covering the goals and objectives of the sport, its global scope, rules, and regulations. HMBNZ have an Online Manual, that has every document template, instructions, online forms, and insurance instructions that we use to organise events, welcome the new members and clubs, and whom to ask for assistance if you have any questions about HMB. Lastly, I used Sport NZ’s own website to research National Sports Organisations, Regional Sports Trusts, and active recreation organisations recognised Sport NZ.

In my test case that I presented to Sport NZ, I outlined the similarities of HMB to recognised sports. The immediate Sport NZ recognised equivalent is Fencing. Wider Sport NZ recognised equivalents are combat sports like karate/boxing, and heritage sports like archery/axe woodchopping. I then moved to the similarities of recognised recreation categories by Sport NZ. Equivalents are the Boys/Girls Brigade, Scouting/Guide movements.

In my test case, I took pains to demonstrate our diligence and commitment as an organised national federation Historical Medieval Battle New Zealand (HMBNZ):

• Officially recognised by the Historical Medieval Battle International Association (HMBIA) and is mandated by them as the official contact and authority of the sport of historical medieval battle in New Zealand.

• The body responsible for sending a team from New Zealand to compete in the historical medieval battle world championship event “Battle of the Nations” – an event like the Olympic Games where premier teams and elite athletes compete in a variety of categories under their nation’s banner. The New Zealand team is called “The Steel Blacks”.

• Has registered members and chartered clubs nationwide.

• Is a registered New Zealand Incorporated Society.

• Our public website has the registration form that includes the Code of Conduct.

Q: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in the process?

This test case was the first of its kind for the medieval combat movement in New Zealand.  There were no templates, no explicit advice about how to achieve recognition. All our New Zealand medieval combat contemporaries were supportive and encouraging – but no one had managed to get to this level of engagement with officials before. We kept our neighbouring HMB National Federation in Australia updated on developments. They too were encouraging and supportive – but they too could not offer explicit advice and guidance.  This test case was the first in the pacific region.

The next obstacle was my own mind. I felt the pressure to perform and imagined the expectations of the community on my shoulders. I relied on humour and an exploration mindset to keep my spirits high. For example, in New Zealand, there is a sport called “Pickleball”. I had never heard of it before I began to research sport in New Zealand!

In addition, I was determined to see HMBNZ recognised. I approached every interaction with authorities with bright optimism and preparedness to negotiate. Explaining HMB with a passion had the effect of making people willing to assist.

Q: What are the consequences for the athletes in NZ? 

The New Zealand HMB National Federation gets the listing on the Sport NZ website as a National Sport Organisation.

Bureaucratic hoops for the National NZ Team have eased, and they have the option to access athlete insurance when travelling overseas – without having to explain that HMB is a sport.

For local HMB clubs in New Zealand the benefits are many! They can:

• Actively seek sponsorship from businesses who will in turn get tax write offs.

Apply for grants and funding from local councils under their sports portfolios.

• Request use of local sports facilities (indoors and outdoors).

• Access to coaching education opportunities held by local entities.

Q: Is there a benefit of participating in an acknowledged sport during the global pandemic?

Sport NZ supports sport organisations to manage the many aspects of their business processes, develop their leadership and people, shape policy and help ensure compliance. HMBNZ now have access to their best practice tools, resources, and research to help guide and develop our federation and manage a COVID-19 response. HMBNZ members have access to webinars and online tools to help run their clubs and enhance their training.

Q: What are the following steps for the organisation in the direction of registering HMB with Sports New Zealand?

Recognition by Sport NZ sets HMB in New Zealand on a path to growth with access to resources on coaching and development, and club management. HMBNZ will work to access Sport NZ resources at a national level, and assist local HMB clubs to access fund initiatives. As Sport NZ works in partnership with Drug Free Sport NZ, High Performance Sport NZ, and the NZ Olympic Committee – HMBNZ will work to develop relationships with these important sporting entities in New Zealand.