17th March 2009

Official Line Column

17 March 2009

Article by Roger Simons as seen in Athletics Wekkly magazine

In June 1998, following the collapse of BAF, Dave Moorcroft invited me to join the newly formed Board of UK Athletics. That appointment was a privilege and honour as Moorcroft worked hard to consolidate our BBC, Norwich Union, Fast track contracts and secure our financial viability. During this time indoor facilities – now used as HiPACs were constructed and occupied providing long outstanding facilities not only for the winter but also as specialised training facilities throughout the year.

In 2000 we published a Competition review, much of which has been achieved. Young Athlete and Junior leagues have now combined scoring teams; officials have revised and updated courses, the needs of combined event athletes were recognised with a greater number of events being made available.  And we also have event specific meetings as well as our comprehensive McCain Challenge series spanning cross country, indoor and outdoor events.

For me personal highlights include our great success in promoting the World & European Indoor championships at NIA, Birmingham where our team of Terry Colton, Cherry Alexander, Malcolm Rogers and Keith Davies, supported by a great team of officials, delivered what was declared by the IAAF and EAA to be the best ever event in each case.

Last year we continued our successful international promotions with the World Cross Country in Edinburgh. Competition events continue to be assessed with the introduction of a new “Super eight” concept trial on 10 June this year in Cardiff. Officials at all levels have a clear pathway with a training programme developed and in place for all officials so far up to new Level 3 (National list) stage. Together with the introduction of appraisals officials can progress to being on the Olympic stage.

Following the departure of Dave Moorcroft the Board decided that in addition to a CEO it would introduce a non-executive chairman, and Ed Warner was appointed. A role which would allow the CEO to manage whilst at the same time having a figurehead who could deal with the very many external organisations such as Sports Councils, Government ministers, IAAF and EA leaders amongst many others, meaning upon his arrival as CEO, Niels de Vos could focus on ensuring the Company reflected the restructure under the Foster report.

Charles van Commenee is now in post as Head Coach to lead our athletes and their coaches to higher performance goals. The addition of Dame Tanni Grey Thompson and Jason Gardener to the board has brought in new skills since Ed Warner’s arrival. Additionally the appointment of Kevin Tyler to head up coaching will fill a much needed role, as will Peter Eriksson as Chief Coach of the Paralympic squad bringing further expertise into those areas. UKA are now well connected and influential in International bodies in a sport far more professional than in 1998.

As I leave the Board on 31 March after nearly 11 years to be replaced by Terry Colton I consider UKA to be in very good hands leading up to 2012 and beyond. I consider the future challenge for the Sport to involve the volunteer support that has been its backbone throughout its history.

With the ever increasing pressures on young people to manage a content family life  and a successful and stable career, very few people wish to commit to a life of athletics taking up evenings and weekends. Whilst we have brought in many capable paid staff we still need the volunteers – a challenge right now and for the future.