New UK Athletics chief executive plays down bankruptcy fears

New UK Athletics chief executive Joanna Coates has dismissed fears of bankruptcy amid the coronavirus crisis.

The body will start furloughing staff this week as it looks to cut costs.

On Wednesday, British Cycling put 90 staff on furlough ahead of an anticipated £4million drop in revenue while UK Sport chief Katherine Grainger has suggested governing bodies may face bankruptcy, such is the financial impact of the pandemic.

But Coates, just three weeks into her role, believes while cash reserves need to improve UKA will survive.

Dame Katherine Grainger has suggested some governing bodies may face bankruptcy
Dame Katherine Grainger has suggested some governing bodies may face bankruptcy (Nick Ansell/PA)

“We’re not in a position where we’re looking at bankruptcy, we’re not one of those Katherine is alluding to because we have a strong commercial arm,” she said.

“Our reserve position is low and that’s something I will be looking at with Nic (Coward) the chair to address in the near future. It needs to be much stronger but we’re not worried about bankruptcy.

“(With furloughing) we probably would have done it a little sooner had I been in the post for a longer time. We had to get all the paperwork and have the conversations to go live. We’re looking at 10-12 but that’s nearly a quarter of our head office staff.

“It’s not one of the first things I wanted to do. We’re looking at a small amount of head office staff and anyone from the performance side. That’s a bit trickier with it getting Lottery funding.

“At the moment, senior staff and the rest of the staff aren’t taking pay cuts but this first round of furloughing is the start of a series of measures we’ll have to undertake.

“If we don’t have some of our major events it will definitely have some impact. We’ve had some good conversations with our partners and they are not looking to cut any money.”

Coates took the post three weeks ago after a difficult 2019 for UKA.

Richard Bowker left his role as chair following a vote of no confidence and Zara Hyde-Peters, who was initially appointed chief executive, opted not to take up the role in November following allegations about her husband.

Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson's gold medal was one of only a few bright points at the World Championships
Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s gold medal was one of only a few bright points at the World Championships (Mike Egerton/PA)

Great Britain also won just five medals at the World Championships, the lowest since 2005.

Despite the worrying financial landscape, Coates wants to appoint a new performance director to replace Neil Black, who left in October.

Paula Dunn will now continue as Paralympics chief through to the rearranged Games next year, having planned to step down before this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed last month.

UKA also recently published the results of their own independent review into the handling of their relationship with Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar, who was banned for four years for doping violations – something he denies.

UKA also recently published the results of their own independent review into the handling of their relationship with Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar
UKA also recently published the results of their own independent review into the handling of their relationship with Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar (Martin Rickett/PA)

That report will be handed over to UK Anti-Doping and while Coates, a former England netball chief, has called UKA fractured, she insists it can be repaired.

“I spoke to people who had worked in the sport and my impression was that it was fractured and obliterated with bits on the floor,” she said.

“But I truly believe we can rebuild this sport and come out at the end with a plan that everyone has bought into.

“I think the organisation going forward needs much stronger leadership. I think across the entire executive and each of the directorate, the sport needs to work closer.

“The CEO needs to have a greater understanding of what happened in the business. Performance cannot dictate to the business.”

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS