Athletics: Knives out for me claims Norman

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ANDY NORMAN, the 'Mr Fixit' of British athletics who has been conspicuously praised by leading British runners at the world championships here for his part in their success, claimed yesterday that he had been the victim of a campaign to reduce his powers.

Norman, the British athletics promotions officer, has had his role in finding overseas competition for athletes and organising warm-weather training transferred to the director of coaching, Frank Dick. The change has been made as the result of a review of the sport by the newly-elected administration of the British Athletic Federation.

'It's the end of an era,' Norman said on the penultimate day of Britain's most successful world championships in terms of gold medals. 'I have done my bit. I've come this far. The Federation get what they deserve.'

After winning the gold and silver medals respectively in the 110 metres hurdles on Friday night, Colin Jackson and Tony Jarrett specifically praised Norman for his assistance in persuading the Federation to fund warm-weather training trips for them over the winter. Linford Christie, who last weekend added the world 100m title to his Olympic gold medal, has also publicly thanked Norman for his assistance and guidance.

'I've run competition programmes for Christie and Jackson and Jarrett and Sally Gunnell since they started,' Norman said. 'Now that is the responsibility of Frank. If I was a football manager, they would be talking about whether I was transferring to Real Madrid.'

Norman would not be drawn on the possibility of a move to Monte Carlo, the athletics equivalent of Real Madrid as the seat of the International Amateur Athletic Federation. But he is already a member of the European Athletic Association and has close links with Primo Nebiolo, president of the IAAF.

Norman, who complained of a campaign in sections of the media to oust him, has been widely criticised for his role as both a promoter of meetings and a representative for many of Britain's elite athletes. 'The knives have been out for me,' he said.

The Federation decided that Norman had 'too much work on his plate'. Norman, previously employed as a consultant, signed a contract last month which required him to concentrate on promoting the nine major domestic televised meetings.

Norman, 49, will return to the negotiations for a new domestic television deal - the current four-year contract with ITV, worth pounds 8m, expires next March - from a strong bargaining position after the victories here by Christie, Jackson and Gunnell. The most gold medals Britain has won at the three previous world championships is two. 'If that doesn't help, nothing will,' Norman said.

Over the winter Jackson and Christie went to Australia for warm-weather training, while Jarrett and John Regis, who won the 200m silver medal on Friday night, went to Los Angeles. But there has been criticism within the sport that the balance of funding has been unfair.

However, other athletes, many of them from middle or long-distance events, have found financial assistance less forthcoming. 'If you gave it to 99 per cent of the athletes here, it wouldn't make them win,' Norman said.

As promoter of next Sunday's McDonald's Games at Sheffield, Norman has some awkward negotiating to do this week following Sally Gunnell's claim that she will not compete unless she is offered the same money as Britain's other Olympic champion, Christie. The going rate in appearance money this season has been around pounds 10,000 for Gunnell and pounds 25,000 for Christie.

'There is only a certain amount of cake and you can only split it in so many ways,' Norman said. But there will be pressure on him to come to an acceptable arrangement to ensure that Gunnell is present for ITV on what will be primarily a night of celebration for British medal winners.

(Photograph omitted)