Athletics: Coaches' jobs may be saved

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The collapse of the British Athletic Federation led yesterday to 21 staff being made redundant. However, as Mike Rowbottom reports, their jobs may yet be saved.

Eight of Britain's national coaches - including the man who guided Sally Gunnell's career, Bruce Longden - were made redundant yesterday in the wake of the British Athletic Federation's financial collapse.

The coaches' jobs, and those of 13 office staff throughout the regions, were cut by the administrators who have been called in to help pay off the federation's creditors.

But fresh hope emerged yesterday as the Amateur Athletic Association, which handed over many of its traditional powers when the BAF was formed in 1991, committed itself to saving the jobs.

"I don't think we've much choice," Geoff Clarke, the AAA's treasurer, said. "We want athletics to continue and at the end of the day we are talking about grass-roots development."

The AAA, which has financial reserves of close to pounds 2m, will discuss the predicament of the 21 employees at a management board meeting on Sunday week.

This summer, the AAA stepped in to guarantee two monthly payments of pounds 45,000 to keep the national coaching programme going while the BAF attempted to sort out what it then believed was a cash-flow problem.

Only one of the payments was made before the BAF, with an immediate deficit of pounds 500,000 and running costs of pounds 130,000 per month, was obliged to call in the administrators on 14 October.

There are now just 13 BAF employees remaining, including the newly installed chief executive, David Moorcroft. They have been told to carry on reporting for work, although their situation is far from certain.

Carl Johnson, mentor to Britain's world triple jump record holder, Jonathan Edwards, is also on the list of those coaches who have been laid off.

The others are the North West coach Peter Warden, David Lease in the West, and the North East's Brad McStravick, as well as Brian Hall, Andy Vince and Phil Banning - national coaches of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively.

A BAF spokeswoman, Jayne Pearce, said: "We are hoping that the coaches will be able to carry on with their roles in some shape or form, perhaps with funding from the regions. But we are not able to fund them. It is obviously a very sad day for everyone at the BAF."

The BAF has not ruled out selling its premises - valued at about pounds 450,000 - in a bid to avert bankruptcy, while the immediate future of domestic showpiece events remains unclear.

Pearce added: "These are the issues that the administrators are looking at."