Several of the UK’s leading athletics stars have told Sebastian Coe that they are at a break with the current regime at UK Athletics and have asked him to intervene.
Several sources have told the Guardian that several of Britain’s leading athletes confronted the World Athletics President at the Crown Plaza Hotel after the Diamond League final in Zurich – and he was made aware of their disillusionment with UKA.
It is believed that the athletes expressed a lack of confidence in the UKA performance team, led by Sara Symington and Christian Malcolm, and UKA managing director Jo Coates. A source in attendance told the Guardian that it was “done for the good of the sport because things require dramatic and immediate change”.
In addition to the multiple criticism of Symingtons and Malcolm’s coaching, eyebrows were raised that Coates was allowed to go on vacation after the disappointing Olympic Games, at which GB Athletics only won six medals, and during the season. Frustration has also been voiced over Coates, who was called up by netball last year. Many questioned her coaching appointments, saying she hadn’t sought advice from people who knew the sport, and told Coe that her promises to put athletes first did not match reality.
Coe was also told that it was difficult for people within the sport to go public because of the close relationship between Coates, Syminton and the head of UK Sport, Sally Munday – and they feared the possible consequences.
However, the frustration among some athletes is so great that they even have the idea of withdrawing from UKA’s World Class program that offers them lottery funding.
Regardless, the Guardian understands that Coate’s plans to cut payments to multiple coaches are also causing displeasure. One described what they do to coaches as “disastrous” and said, “What a waste. What will be left of the sport when they are done? ”In response, UKA urged its stars to turn to the Athletes’ Commission if they criticize them.
“As is customary for this phase at the end of an Olympic and Paralympic cycle, a number of structural changes will be made to enable the world-class program to implement its strategy for the Paris cycle,” said a spokesman.
“Both the organization and the wider sport are undergoing a period of change as the new UKA plan for sport is introduced. We understand that the changes you make are difficult for some, but not fast enough for others.
“As there are improvements that could not be achieved before Tokyo, the focus was on helping athletes and coaches qualify and participate in the late games.
“We urge athletes to continue providing feedback to UK Athletics and also to work with the Athletes Commission as we are fully committed to putting athletes first and at the center of our future plans.”
Coe, who spoke to the Guardian in Zurich last Thursday before speaking with the UK athletes, said he hoped UKA would learn the lessons from a disappointing Olympics.
While praising medalists Holly Bradshaw, Laura Muir, Keely Hodgkinson and Josh Kerr, Coe said, “I have concerns. I just sensed that a little too many athletes left their best performances a little behind. And getting to the top and holding that top is really important. So see, it wasn’t sheer joy. And it wasn’t a disaster.
“But after Tokyo every good association will do a review. And the question that every association would like to ask is: Where are the talents most promoted? “