Athletics in crisis: UK Sport launch review into troubled national governing body… just five months before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

  • UK Athletics were plunged into a deeper crisis after launch of review on Tuesday
  • The root-and-branch assessment comes five months before Tokyo Olympics  
  • UKA are without permanent CEO or performance director after a spell of chaos

UK Athletics have been plunged into a deeper crisis after UK Sport launched an unprecedented review into the troubled governing body on Tuesday.

The root-and-branch assessment comes five months before the Olympics and at a time when UKA are without a permanent CEO or performance director after more than a year of chaos.

It will sit alongside the independent reviews currently being conducted into how UKA handled the Alberto Salazar affair and the debacle around the aborted CEO appointment of Zara Hyde Peters, who was dismissed before even starting last year over a safeguarding scandal.

UK Athletics (UKA) have been plunged into a deeper crisis after UK Sport launched a review

The focus of the forthcoming review, which will be led in its preliminary stage by Dame Sue Street and is expected to be completed in April, will cover six main areas — strategy, leadership, governance, operation, culture, and connectivity within the sport. 

British Cycling was subjected to a UK Sport review into the culture of its elite programme in 2016, but the sheer scope and breadth of this look into UK Athletics is thought to be unprecedented.

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport, said: ‘Issues raised in recent months regarding the sport are of major concern to both UK Sport and to the leadership team at UK Athletics. Both organisations are committed to delivering long-term improvement and ensuring the sustainability of the sport while acting in the best interests of its athletes, staff and the wider athletics family.

‘Our aim is to ensure we have a full understanding of the priority issues and any steps required to help the sport move forward.’

There is no indication of what action could be taken once the findings are in, but there was already a significant risk to UKA’s elevated levels of funding, which stands at £26.9million for the current Olympic cycle. 

UKA have been on shaky ground in that regard after the GB team missed their medal target of seven to nine at the World Championships in Doha — a failure which, allied with the fallout of Salazar’s ban for anti-doping violations, cost Neil Black his job as performance director. A performance review released last month said it was of ‘acute concern’ that UKA are moving forward to Tokyo with no permanent replacement.

The root-and-branch assessment comes five months before the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan

The root-and-branch assessment comes five months before the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan 

It was the backing of Salazar’s work with Mo Farah between 2011 and 2017 — despite serious allegations in 2015 — that has cast a cloud over the organisation. While that is the subject of an ongoing review by the barrister John Mehrzad, there are concerns within the sport that it will not look closely enough at which, if any, of Salazar’s methods were adopted by UKA employees in his time as consultant between 2013 and 2017.

The view around the sport is that UKA has long been rudderless, even before the departure in September 2018 of the underwhelming CEO Niels de Vos. He faced criticism for failing to build on the London 2012 legacy, amid concerns that the organisation prioritised top-level medals ahead of a grassroots structure necessary for sustained success.

The fact that those medals never materialised in great numbers has cast great doubt over the wisdom of the approach, and it is troubling that De Vos has not been replaced 17 months on from his exit.  

It will sit alongside the independent review into how UKA handled the Alberto Salazar affair

It will sit alongside the independent review into how UKA handled the Alberto Salazar affair

Sportsmail understands a new CEO will be announced in the coming weeks with extra scrutiny on the outcome in light of the safeguarding oversights last year involving the husband of Hyde Peters. Coupled with the dismally short reign of Richard Bowker, who left as chairman a year ago after losing a power struggle with the home countries, there is no shortage of material for UK Sport to cover.

A UKA statement said: ‘UK Athletics welcomes today’s review announced by UK Sport to recommend areas of change and organisational development to ensure that UK Athletics is fit for the future.’

Sports Minister Nigel Adams said: ‘I welcome this intervention. Recent issues have been concerning. This review will have no impact on athletes’ preparations for Tokyo. The highest standards of professional conduct and integrity must be in place in our sports’ governing bodies.’

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