‘We need to do things better’: UK Athletics chiefs call for patience

Christian Malcolm has said there is a need for UK Athletics to “do things better” after several of Britain’s top track and field stars confronted Sebastian Coe last month about the state of affairs at UKA.

A number of leading athletes spoke to the World Athletics president after the Diamond League finals in Zurich, expressing their disillusionment over a variety of factors including a lack of confidence in the performance team, which is led by Malcolm, Sara Symington and the UKA chief executive, Jo Coates.

Symington saidon Monday she and Malcolm, who were appointed last year, had the credentials to take the organisation forward and build for Paris 2024, despite an under-par performance in Tokyo when Team GB won only six medals.

“I’ve spoken to a few athletes that were in Zurich and we’ve had conversations about what their problems were,” Malcolm said. “It’s been a difficult time and there’s no point hiding from that. But we intend to do things a lot better. There’s a process of recruitment and we are listening to the athletes.”

Symington said: “We’ve got the credibility and expertise to be in these roles. We’ve been here nearly 12 months. Can we do things better? Absolutely. There’s a look at what we need to do better but it’s about looking towards Paris and that journey.”

Malcolm reiterated the need for patience to implement the changes he and Symington want at UKA but stopped short of criticising the athletes who confronted Coe about their concerns. “From what I hear, it wasn’t a case of calling Seb over and saying ‘we’ve something to tell you’. It was a conversation that evolved with him and it was an opportunity for them to voice their opinions.

“We encourage them to speak up; they’ve voiced their opinion and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s about actions. There won’t be changes overnight.”

The reported reduction in payments to UKA coaches in the next funding cycle has been described as “catastrophic” and, while Symington said the intricacies of the coaching programme have yet to be finalised, it is inevitable a reduction in funding will hit UKA hard.

“We’re going to have to cut our cloth accordingly,” she said. “There’s less money and how we slice that up is up to question. We’ve nearly concluded our coaching consultations for those employed with British Athletics and the next piece of the jigsaw is working out the consultancy agreements.”

Malcolm and Symington were speaking on the day UKA revealed the 67 athletes selected for the World Class Programme funding project. High-profile athletes such as Andrew Butchart and Tom Bosworth have been excluded, as has CJ Ujah, who returned a positive drugs test in Tokyo after helping Team GB win silver in the men’s 4x100m relay. Symington confirmed that Ujah is ineligible due to being suspended from all competition until his case is heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.