UK Athletics has lost both its chief executive officer and performance director, and has now come under criticism after athletes discovered the news on Twitter
UK Athletics has been dealt a double blow after it was confirmed the chief executive officer Joanna Coates and performance director Sara Symington are leaving the organisation.
Coates, who took over from Chris Clark in March 2020, has resigned, while Symington will join British Cycling.
Chair of UK Athletics Ian Beattie said: “I’d like to thank Jo and Sara for their work during their time at UK Athletics and I wish them both all the best for the future.”
Development director Mark Munro has been installed as interim boss.
The news broke on Twitter on Thursday evening with the @AthleticsWeekly account posting: “UKA have confirmed that Joanna Coates and Sara Symington have quit as Chief Executive Officer and Performance Director.”
That prompted criticism, with athlete Holly Bradshaw, who won pole vault bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, promptly replying with “Disappointed to find out such important news over social media.”
Athletics fans seemed to agree, with @henri_pv replying with “How unprofessional – What a s*** show. So sad to see the sport I love in such a mess.”
Bradshaw acknowledged her tweet by saying “So sad.”
The departure of Coates will plunge British athletics into further crisis, after she was originally appointed with a view to stabilising the sport following a prolonged, troublesome period.
However, her task has been plagued by financial constraints, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing huge losses, and in a further blow the UKA’s long-term deal with the BBC ended.
Scrutiny around Coates was then exacerbated in the summer, when for the first time since Atlanta 1996, Great Britain’s athletics team failed to win a single gold medal at the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
That led many to question two key appointments that Coates made; performance director Symington and head coach Christian Malcolm.
Getty Images for England Netball)
Things then came into a head at a Diamond League meeting in Zurich last month, where some athletes voiced their anger to Lord Coe following recent cuts in coaching budgets.
Symington meanwhile, a former cyclist who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, has been appointed head of British Cycling’s Olympic and Paralympic programme.
“This is an incredible opportunity to play a pivotal role within cycling – the nation’s most successful Olympic and Paralympic sport,” she said.
British Cycling performance director Stephen Park added: “I have respected Sara’s work throughout her career, and I am thrilled she will be able to join our senior leadership team.”