Tag Archives: Sara Symington

Exclusive: UK Athletics’ chief was on £226k salary during controversial period

UK Athletics’ controversial chief executive Jo Coates was earning a salary package of £226,143 before she resigned last month, making her one of the highest paid administrators in British Olympic sport, the Guardian can reveal.

The news, which is contained in the UKA accounts for the 2020-21 financial year that will be filed at Companies House later this week, will upset many in the sport given her 19-month reign was characterised by turmoil, infighting and athlete dissatisfaction.

That anger reached a head in September when a group of Britain’s top athletes and coaches told World Athletics president Sebastian Coe of their frustration with Coates and her performance director Sara Symington. Both women also had their defenders but a month later both were gone following a stormy UKA board meeting.

UKA’s accounts show that Coates earned a £147,500 basic salary as well as another £78,663 in pension contributions between March 2020 and March 2021. However, the wider picture is far rosier than expected with UKA reporting an overall deficit of just £103,000 for the financial year. That is considerably better than the result of the previous two years, where the combined losses were over £1m.

Those results also came about despite the organisation experiencing a £9m fall in income due to the global pandemic. However, a combination of only staging one event – the British championships in September 2020 – and dramatically reduced costs for training camps due to travel restrictions meant that UKA was able to cut its costs by just over £9m.

The accounts show that UKA was also able to claim around £85,000 from a number of government schemes, including placing a number of staff members on furlough. And if it wasn’t for unrealised foreign exchange losses of £148k – as a result of the sport holding US dollars to cover costs including those associated with international events and overseas training camps – UKA would have made a £45,000 surplus.

When approached for a statement, UK Athletics confirmed that the accounts for the 2020-2021 financial year will be published on UKA.org.uk and at Companies House this week.

UKA’s chief financial officer Mark Draisey added: “This is a positive outcome for the sport, with our ambition of a break-even position only impacted by the exchange rates affecting our holding in US dollars.

“In terms of our core activities the organisation is coming out of this challenging period with a much stronger financial position to report.”

UK Athletics CEO Joanna Coates and performance director Sara Symington resign

UK Athletics has plummeted to a new low with the dramatic resignations of CEO Joanna Coates and performance director Sara Symington.

Coates walked out of the crisis-hit organisation following her participation in a fiery board meeting on Wednesday. Coates, the former chief of England Netball, departs after less than two tumultuous years in the post. Following her appointment in March 2020, her reign has been plagued by in-fighting and characterised by unpopular decisions.

Symington, a former Team GB cyclist who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, was appointed even more recently, in August 2020, and returns to her former sport. She takes over a newly-created role as head of the Olympic and Paralympic Programme for the Great Britain Cycling Team (GBCT).

Mark Munro, current UK Athletics development director, will take over as interim CEO for six months and will work with the board to start the recruitment process for both roles.

UK Athletics chair Ian Beattie said: “I’d like to thank Jo and Sara for their work during their time at UK Athletics and I wish them both all the best for the future.”

UK Athletics names only 17 athletes on top-level funding for next Olympics

UK ATHLETICS has announced its list of athletes who will receive potentially career-defining funding as the summer Olympics scheduled for Paris in 2024 heave into view.

Among them is Keely Hodgkinson, who has been offered top level funding on the British Athletics Olympic world class programme.

The 19-year-old won 800m silver at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer, smashing Kelly Holmes’s British record, which had stood since 1995, by almost a second.

In March she became the youngest British winner at the European Athletics Indoor Championships for more than half a century and the youngest ever 800m European indoor champion, despite not being on full funding.

Performance director Sara Symington said: “As we start the Paris cycle, and longer-term Los Angeles 2028, we made a number of informed decisions in regard to the world-class programme membership that aligns with our strategic priorities.

“We will work closely with the 67 athlete-and-coach pairings that we are offering membership to, and will look to add support and value in their journey via their individual athlete plan,” she droned.

“The selection process is robust and lengthy and we use a lot of data which is complemented by the knowledge of our event leads to inform the decision-making process.

“We have given careful consideration to those athletes who meet the selection criteria and performance matrix which align to the future ambitions of the world class programme.”

Josh Kerr moves up to podium-level funding after winning 1500m bronze in Japan, as do Andrew Pozzi, Jemma Reekie and Jazmin Sawyers.

Alex Bell, who came seventh in the 800m final, has been offered podium funding just two years after saying she was considering taking legal action against UK Athletics after being overlooked for funding for Tokyo.

They join Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Adam Gemili, with just 17 athletes on top-level funding. Reece Prescod and Zharnel Hughes have been downgraded to relay funding only, despite Hughes reaching the 100m Olympic final.

Olympic finalists Lizzie Bird, Jake Heyward and Marc Scott are among the athletes to be offered membership at podium potential level. Andrew Butchart, CJ Ujah and Tom Bosworth have seen their funding cut.

Source: morningstaronline.co.uk

Save our sport! British athletes plead with Lord Coe to step in and rescue UK Athletics

Some of Britain’s leading athletes have pleaded with Lord Coe to step in and save the sport in this country after becoming furious with the current regime at UK Athletics.

Sportsmail has been told the impassioned encounter between the World Athletics president and several GB track and field stars took place by chance at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Zurich last Thursday.

The conversation, which followed the Diamond League finals earlier that evening, was described by one source as a ‘proper cry for help – the athletes were really reaching out’.

Some are even considering the drastic step of walking away from UKA’s World Class Programme if changes are not made.

That would mean the damning move of operating entirely outside the British system and foregoing lottery funding for the sake of disassociating with UKA, though they would still be eligible for selection to championships such as the Olympics.

At the heart of the athletes’ exasperation, according to insiders, is a perceived lack of expertise and presence from performance director Sara Symington and the Olympic head coach Christian Malcolm.

They were both appointed last autumn under chief executive Joanna Coates, with the trio mockingly described as the ‘three amigos’ by one figure close to the system.

The appointment of Symington, who worked under Coates at England Netball, has attracted fierce criticism within the sport, with the performance director accused of lacking athletics knowledge.

Malcolm’s selection last year, ahead of the vastly experienced and respected Stephen Maguire, also raised eyebrows. The 42-year-old former GB sprinter has been considered ‘out of his depth’ by several athletes and coaches.

‘There is no attention to detail from any of them,’ said one coach. ‘The situation could be a catastrophe for the sport for years if it does not change.’

It was also flagged up that Symington and Malcolm were on holiday instead of attending the Diamond League finals in Zurich, where Dina Asher-Smith returned to form and Keely Hodgkinson won the 800m title.

The anger from athletes expressed to Lord Coe, which extends to the lack of British-based competitions and questions about medical provisions, comes at a time when some of Britain’s leading coaches are facing growing uncertainty about their positions.

Sportsmail understands a number of coaches and coaching consultants have been told by UKA in the past fortnight that their working hours could be reduced or their consultancies terminated.

Such letters have been sent to Andy Young and Scott Simpson, who respectively led Laura Muir (1500m) and Holly Bradshaw (pole vault) to Olympic medals. A letter was also sent to high jump coach Fuzz Caan, with consultancies held by coaches Tore Gustafsson (hammer), Leon Baptiste (sprints) and Jon Bigg also under threat.

UKA indicated in the letters that future consultant posts will be advertised after their current coaching review, but it has caused alarm that the positions have been adjusted or terminated prior to the establishment of a new system.

While coaching reviews tend to follow an Olympics, and indeed certain changes are quite possibly warranted after an underwhelming haul of just six medals, the ‘cold’ nature of the letters has been criticised.

It was also noted that Young had not received so much as a note of congratulation for orchestrating Muir’s brilliant 1,500m silver medal, though over the weekend it is believed he was told a new contract would be forthcoming.

Among the changes on the way, Rob Denmark is expected to leave his interim head of performance role.

A UKA spokesperson said: ‘Any suggested changes to the coaching structure are not set. We understand for some the changes are difficult, yet for others, some changes are not fast enough.

‘We would urge athletes to continue to feedback to UK Athletics and also engage with the Athlete’s Commission as we are fully committed to ensuring we place athletes first and at the heart of our plans going forward.’