UKA Blowup over Mark Lewis-Francis Coaching Switch

Winch pulls up Collins

Duncan Mackay
Wednesday October 12, 2005
The Guardian

A potentially damaging row between Dave Collins, UK Athletics’ performance director, and one of the sport’s most senior officials has broken out in the letters page of Athletics Weekly just a week after Paula Radcliffe’s father urged the sport to work together.
Mike Winch, the UK Athletics vice-president, has written twice in recent weeks to the magazine to protest about Collins’ alleged role in the sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis controversially switching coaches from Steve Platt to Tony Lester. “Athletics has truly taken a major step forward, and as David Collins, our new performance director is quoted to have said, ‘he has been working for this move for some time.’ We can now let all those unpaid coaches leave the sport or resign themselves to supplying the new ‘wonder team’ with athletes for them to coach,” wrote Winch.

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Winch claims part of his remit as vice-president, which he was elected to in 2003 ahead of Tanni Grey-Thompson, is to be the “conscience of the sport.” Collins alleges Winch, a former Commonwealth Games shot put silver medallist who has coached 30 senior internationals, wrote the letter after being turned down for a job as a national coach. Winch responded by accusing Collins of using “obfuscation as a simple tactic to muddy the waters around a point he seems not to want to discuss.”
Winch has also claimed a presentation given by Collins, who replaced Max Jones in March, to UK Athletics about his future plans left him worried for the sport’s future. “I seriously fear for our sport, with the poor quality of concept and decision-making that seem to be going on,” he said.

The row is an embarrassment to the UK Athletics chief executive David Moorcroft, who is trying to implement changes so the sport can receive £21m in legacy money from the government. Peter Radcliffe, chairman of the Athletic Association of England, last week wrote to every club in the country claiming the sport could only achieve its potential if everyone worked together.

Protesters target Queen

A visit today by the Queen to the proposed site of the 2012 Olympics could be overshadowed by a protest from members of the Marshgate Lane business group, which represents some of the 300 firms moving to make way for the Olympic Park. They are to stage a demonstration. “I only hope the Queen doesn’t forget to ask what is happening to the businesses that are having to move,” said one protester.

It could be an uncomfortable appointment all round for the Queen. She caused a storm during the bidding process when allegedly telling a student at a reception at Buckingham Palace she did not believe London had a chance of hosting the games. “Oh, I think Paris has the best chance,” she reportedly said. Fortunately, Lord Coe - who will accompany the Queen during her 90-minute tour - will probably be too polite to raise the subject.

From Ashes to honours

Government officials are grappling with how to reward England’s cricketers for regaining the Ashes. Under Tony Blair, it has become traditional for sporting heroes to be recognised in the New Year’s honours list. But giving an honour to Andrew Flintoff and co could cause allegations of sexism unless the same reward is extended to the England women’s team, who also beat Australia to win their version of the Ashes. There are also vexed discussions about whether Paula Radcliffe’s marathon gold medal at the world championships makes her worthy of becoming a Dame. The one honour not in doubt is to the former British Olympic Association chairman Craig Reedie. He will be awarded a knighthood at least for his part in helping London win the 2012 Olympics.