Athletics: Elections bring new direction

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The Independent Online
MALCOLM JONES and Arthur McAllister, respectively the chief executive and the president of the British Athletic Federation, were the last to leave the dais after Saturday's elections in Birmingham. Had their dazed stares been directed at the carpet, rather than towards the back of the hall, they would have seen pools of their own metaphorical blood.

The annual meeting's decision to reject all four of the president's men in favour of the quartet of candidates he had publicly criticised a month earlier leaves him in a position that appears untenable, even though his presidency was unopposed this year.

The voting also reversed the stance adopted at last month's BAF council meeting, when Peter Radford, David Bedford and John Lister - who were confirmed on Saturday as chairman, secretary and treasurer to the Federation - were censured for their part in a 9-0 management board vote of no confidence in Jones as chief executive.

Now that these three - and their fellow campaigner Bob Greenoak, the new vice-president - are ensconced at the centre of British athletics, Jones's prospect of seeing out his contract looks slight.

In effect, the victory for Radford's group over more conservative opponents put forward by the area associations should mean an acceleration in the process of change which brought about the formation of the all-encompassing Federation 18 months ago. As McAllister wrote in the foreword to this year's BAF report: 'The very setting up of BAF has been the catalyst for change and radical thinking.'

The radical thinking of the successful candidates includes the apportioning of at least pounds 1m within five years - and pounds 250,000 straight away - towards developing coaching at grass roots level. Lister, who was unopposed as treasurer, sees at least another pounds 1m worth of potential gain annually for a sport that turned over pounds 7m last year.

If suitable candidates can be found, this autumn should see the Federation appointing a full-time coaching development officer, who will take on and expand some of the duties now being carried out by the British director of coaching, Frank Dick. The second key appointment will be that of a full-time marketing manager, whose brief will be to seek the new funds which Lister believes are still out there in the marketplace.

After the vote, Radford appealed to the meeting - at which there was a larger than usual turn-out of about 300 club representatives - not to waste time on further infighting. But there was little comfort for McAllister in Radford's post-meeting comments. 'If Arthur is in a difficult position, it is not a difficult position in which we have placed him,' he said.

The manifestos of the two groups contesting the election were not very different. 'In the end,' Bedford said, 'the clubs voted for who they thought were most likely to deliver.'