Tag Archives: UK Athletics

Jack Buckner: From Swimming to UK Athletics CEO

Jack Buckner has been announced as the new Chief Executive of UK Athletics following the conclusion of an open recruitment process.

Buckner, who is currently the Chief Executive of British Swimming and previously the British Triathlon Federation, will take the reins at UK Athletics as the sport commences build-up towards a fast approaching Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As swimming’s CEO he oversaw a hugely successful Team GB performance at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021, the Olympic team claiming a best-ever haul of eight medals including 4 gold and the Paralympic team was the most successful sport competing for ParalympicsGB with 26 medals won at the Aquatics centre.

Previous to his role at British Triathlon, Buckner worked as Strategic Lead for National Governing Bodies and Market Development for Sport England. Most notably however he is a 1987 World Athletics Championships Bronze medallist, and 1986 European Gold and Commonwealth Silver medallist over 5000m.

On returning to the sport where he originally made his competitive mark, Buckner said:

“I’m incredibly excited to continue my sporting journey at UK Athletics where I know there are so many great people doing amazing things in Olympic and Paralympic sport.  Many thanks to Ian Beattie and the Board at UKA for giving me this opportunity.

“Athletics has been a huge part of my life since I was a teenager and I can’t wait to be trackside later in the year. Taking on the CEO role will be an exciting challenge and one I feel privileged to have been offered. I am looking forward to getting started.”

UK Athletics Chair Ian Beattie said:

“I am delighted to announce Jack as our new CEO. We were impressed with the range and quality of applicants for the role at this exciting time for athletics, but Jack was the standout candidate with his feel for the sport and knowledge as an athlete.

“Both the Board and I look forward to working with Jack, starting with this very busy and exciting summer and looking ahead to the fast-approaching Paris Olympics and Paralympics.

“I’d also like to thank Mark Munro in his role as interim CEO and his commitment to leading the senior team over the last few months. I’m pleased to confirm that Mark will continue working for UKA in a senior role and has been appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer in a crucial role alongside our new CEO. I’ve no doubt we’ve got some great talent in the senior leadership team and organisation and I’m looking forward to working with them in the coming years.”

Marilyn Okoro and Wendy Sly join UKA board

Former athletes are appointed as non-executive directors at the national governing body

Olympians Marilyn Okoro and Wendy Sly will join the UK Athletics board as non-executive directors from February 1. Okoro competed in the 800m and won 4x400m bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, whereas Sly won Olympic 3000m silver at the 1984 LA Games and is the current managing director at AW.

Okoro has also run 1:58.45 – a time that ranks her No.10 on the UK all-time 800m rankings – and outside of competition she is highly regarded in championing mental health, social mobility and athlete welfare, in addition to being a graduate of an accredited programme in corporate governance.

Sly, meanwhile, also won the world 10km title during her career and she has enjoyed a successful career in publishing and continues to serve the sport in roles including team management, athlete mentoring and has previously served a term on the board of England Athletics.

Beattie said: “On behalf of the board I would like to welcome Marilyn and Wendy into these crucial non-executive roles and look forward to us benefitting from the experience they will bring to UKA.

“The quality of applications for these roles was very impressive and I would like to thank all the shortlisted candidates for their interest and engagement in this process as without exception all were of an incredibly high standard.

“The composition of the board is essential for the success of the organisation and I am delighted with the mix of expertise around the table. I have no doubt they will provide excellent support and guidance for the leadership team in what is an exciting year for athletics.”

Okoro said: “I am elated to have been appointed to the board of UKA. As an athlete you want to be involved and help the sport and I am thrilled with this opportunity. The sport is in my blood, and I hope that I can help bridge the gap between the board and the sport and provide an athlete voice.

“I am excited by the joined-up approach outlined by Athletics Unified as I know when the sport collaborates and works together great things can happen. It’s an exciting time to be involved and I look forward to working with Ian and the rest of the board of UKA.”

Sly added: “I’m thrilled to be involved in a new era, not just for UKA but for the whole sport in the UK. I’ve spent 50 years of my life in the sport that I love and I am honoured to have this opportunity to join the board at this exciting time.

“I’ve been privileged to have been involved with team management, and mentoring athletes over the years, so I hope that I can continue to be a familiar face to everyone in the sport and be an approachable figure on the board.

“There have been quite a few changes in the last couple of years and it is great to be part of the new look UKA board that really reflects and has a connection with the sport.”

Source: athleticsweekly.com

Alberto Salazar got a £125,000 bonus after sacking

Mo Farah’s disgraced former coach was paid a six-figure bonus partly out of National Lottery funding even though UK Athletics had dropped him as a consultant, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Alberto Salazar received £125,000 for his role between 2012 and 2016 as a bonus for helping Farah to win Olympic gold, an email obtained via a Freedom of Information request has shown. A part of that sum was public money in the form of National Lottery funding.

Salazar was paid the medal bonus even though UKA dropped a consultancy arrangement with the American coach following a BBC Panorama investigation into his methods in 2015.

The email obtained by this newspaper reveals that, in March 2017, an employee of UK Sport wrote: ‘Alberto Salazar received 125K medal bonus from UKA following [redacted] medal winning performances. Salazar’s [sic] was not contracted or employed by the sport.

[Redacted] confirmed that the funding to pay Salazar’s bonus … in the Rio cycle was from WCP [World Class Performance] pot and not UK Athletics own money.’

It can be assumed the bonuses were due to Farah’s medal-winning performances. A later email from UK Athletics states: ‘2013-2017 Olympic Coach bonus policy … Alberto Salazar (Mo Farah — men’s 5000m/10,000m)’.

Farah won double gold medals at 5,000m and 10,000m at the World Championships in 2013 and 2015 and at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He also won double gold at the 2012 London Olympics when coached by Salazar, though it appears these payments do not relate to that period.

UK Athletics, who initially hired Salazar in 2013, wanted Farah to cut ties with the coach following the BBC investigation. UKA coaches, the late Neil Black and Barry Fudge, however, strongly resisted.

Farah therefore was still using Salazar until 2017, meaning the coach still qualified for the performance bonuses. Salazar’s consultancy was role was always informal, was not contractual and he was not paid for it by UKA. As it transpired, only Farah among UK athletes made use of his coaching methods.

World Class Performance refers to UK Sport’s National Lottery funding of leading Olympians, although as is made clear, the rules changed after 2016 so that Lottery money was not used to pay coach bonuses.

A later email from UKA states that what they describe as the World Class Performance ‘pot’ to pay Salazar’s bonuses came from UK Sport money and ‘co funding from the main sponsor at the time’. The Rio cycle refer to the years running up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2013-2016.

However, UK Sport sent a number of emails in 2017 quizzing UKA about the arrangements. An employee at UK Sport also emphasised in the March 2017 email that the new funding agreement ‘also highlights an expectation that if a WCP [funded athlete] were entering into an unusual, novel or potentially contentious arrangement that they would they would discuss with UKS [UK Sport] prior to doing this.’

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Coach John Lees banned for lifetime

A British athletics coach has been banned for life for sexual misconduct John Lees was found guilty of five charges and he admitted to other counts.

The independent appeal committee, chaired by Jane Mulcahy QC, found him guilty of five charges relating to his misconduct towards athletes.

An additional two charges were admitted by Lees, who was based in Edinburgh.

The panel concluded: “We are left with the view that [Lees] habitually behaved inappropriately, had disregard for the rules and, as we have already noted, had no idea of boundaries.”

Scottish cross-country champion Mhairi Maclennan was one of the athletes to testify against Lees.

Waiving her right to anonymity, she said: “For me, today marks what I hope to be the end of a very long journey.

“This experience has certainly tested me in ways I never imagined possible. I’m immensely proud of all the athletes that have spoken up in this case, and I stand with all athletes, past and present, from our group.

“I hope that our story helps to change the narrative and sets a precedent that athletes will no longer suffer in silence.”

Lees had appealed against the decision in February to ban him from coaching and also against the length.

On Thursday, charges against Lees were found proven by the appeal panel of sexual touching, making a sexualised comment to a female athlete, endangering an athlete’s safety by “causing injury by administering a chiropractic adjustment” and providing chiropractic adjustments while not being appropriately qualified.

The further charges admitted by Lees related to massaging an athlete at his home address when she was under 18, and making inappropriate and sexualised comments to athletes in his training group.

British athletics John Lees (pictured) has been given a life ban for sexual misconduct

UK Athletics’ (UKA) submission to the appeal panel said: “[Lees] has shown a blatant disregard for the rules and an insistence on doing things his way… he could not even acknowledge that what he did was wrong.”

The panel concluded that his conduct was “very serious”.

It added: “Further, we are very troubled by his attitude and his continuing failure… to take any responsibility or to accept his conduct was wanting in any way.

“Our unanimous view is that [his] conduct and failure to accept any need for change renders him untrustworthy and unsuitable to work as a UKA licensed coach now or in the future.

“We have therefore decided that the appropriate sanction is the permanent withdrawal of [his] UKA coaching licence.”

The panel concluded: ‘We are left with the view that he habitually behaved inappropriately, had disregard for the rules and, as we have already noted, had no idea of boundaries.’

The UKA’s interim chief executive, Mark Munro, said: ‘We are pleased with the decision by the panel.

‘Athletics cannot tolerate the type of behaviour highlighted in this case. This decision shows that the welfare is at the front and centre of UK Athletics’ and at the heart of what we stand for.’

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.”

Mo Farah dropped from funding by UK Athletics

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah has been left off funding by the British Athletics Olympic Programme.

Farah was included on the Olympic World Class Programme funding in 2020, which British Athletics rolled over after the Tokyo Olympics was postponed for a year by the pandemic.

But he failed to reach the Games in Japan after missing the 10,000m qualifying time in the summer.

Farah is yet to announce whether he will return or retire but, with the World and European Championships next year,

British Athletics head coach Christian Malcolm has also refused to close the door on Sir Mo Farah’s career.

He said: “I will welcome any athlete who is out there performing well. Because people have been moved off the world class performance plan doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want them to be part of the team.

“You want that competition, appetite to be back in the team and performing for their country.

“I haven’t spoken to him; we spoke on WhatsApp a couple of months ago. I’m giving him a bit of space and time but I will be in contact with him just to find out what he wants to do.

“Mo Farah is a legend of our sport and deserves to make his decision in his own time.”

Malcolm and British Athletics performance director Sara Symington have come under fire recently.

Disillusioned athletes reportedly asked Lord Seb Coe president of World Athletics to intervene last month such was their lack of confidence in the UKA performance team, but Malcolm asked for time.

He said: “I think its actions. They were good, productive conversations but it’s how we go forward and these things aren’t going to change overnight. There has to be an element of patience.

“Some of the things were warranted, they are understandable, it’s been a challenging year, but some of the other things they didn’t really know the answers to.

“We had good conversations and we intend on doing things a lot better. I just think we have come in and there have been a lot of moving parts within the organisation and, with anything, nobody really likes change do they?”

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

Ian Beattie appointed chair of UK Athletics

Former chair of Scottish Athletics gets top job at UKA as he replaces Nic Coward

Ian Beattie will succeed Nic Coward as chair of UK Athletics. The former chair of Scottish Athletics will begin his role in October and will oversee a governing body which is run by chief executive Jo Coates.

UKA say the search for a successor to Coward was “specifically designed to attract a pool of diverse candidates” and there was speculation that someone from outside of athletics might get the role. But instead it has gone to a man who has a rich history in the sport, in addition to being a chartered accountant and chief operating officer of Lindsays Solicitors.

Beattie is a member and endurance coach of Harmeny Athletics Club in Edinburgh and has previously been a member of Portobello, Strathearn Harriers, Central AC and Troon Tortoises, serving on the committee of most of those clubs.

He is race director of the West Highland Way Race – having completed the ultra running event eight times – and has completed more than 100 marathons and 100 half marathons.

Beattie takes over at a difficult time for the sport, amid reports of disillusionment among a number of Britain’s best known athletes. He said: “I am delighted to have been appointed to the chair position at UK Athletics. It is an exciting time to be taking on the role and I look forward to helping the organisation provide a positive environment for athletes, coaches, officials and everyone else involved in the sport.

“Having previously chaired one of the home country athletics federations, I recognise the importance of all the athletics bodies in the UK working together, with each of us performing our roles to the highest possible standard.

“My vision is for athletics to be a sport where everyone pulls in the same direction and feels proud to be part of the athletics family in the UK. It is encouraging that the structures are now in place to allow that to happen, and I look forward to helping UKA play its part in achieving this in the years ahead.”

Source: athleticsweekly.com

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.’

SEB COE: Kenya’s Athletics Religion shows way forward Britain’s programme

Athletics re-emerged from Tokyo as the No 1 Olympic sport and the broadcast numbers beginning to drift in, although still a little raw, point to that.

I’m writing this column from Nairobi, Kenya where the World Athletics Under 20 Championships are taking place. This is a country that is passionate about athletics. It borders on a religion.

In the entrance hall to the Kasarani Stadium, hosting the event, and known locally as the Home of Heroes, there are framed photographs of well over 50 Olympic Champions and world-record holders.