Athletics: Norman is sacked in silence: Questions unanswered

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The Independent Online
ANDY NORMAN, the subject of disciplinary proceedings since 5 February, was sacked yesterday as promotions officers of the British Athletic Federation.

The manner of his departure raised a number of pressing questions which were definitively unanswered by the man who made the decision, the BAF executive chairman, Professor Peter Radford.

Norman, who has been linked with the suicide on 8 January this year of Cliff Temple, the athletics writer and coach, will leave his job shortly before the end of this month. Radford said: 'I have concluded that Mr Norman's conduct in certain matters was not appropriate for someone employed as director of promotions of BAF and that it would be inconsistent with the interests of BAF for Mr Norman to remain in our employment.'

Presumably on legal grounds, Radford would not elaborate on the precise grounds for Norman's dismissal, nor speculate on how the sport would proceed in his absence. Nor would he comment on speculation that Norman had received a pay-off. Two independent sources have suggested that a figure of pounds 100,000 was involved.

The press conference called at Birmingham's Holiday Inn for the announcement degenerated into acrimony as journalists and television reporters sought answers from Radford and the BAF spokesman - or on this occasion, non-spokesman - Tony Ward. Radford, who won a 100 metres silver medal at the 1960 Olympics, has surely never got away from his blocks as swiftly. Like proverbial News of the World reporters Radford and Ward made their excuses and left, diving through the rain into a waiting taxi.

The statement said that the terms agreed with Norman 'include a number of specific undertakings on Mr Norman's part which are contained in a Deed of Covenant, and the settlement reflects his wish to be supportive of BAF and of British athletics in the future.'

Given that Radford would not say whether such a 'settlement' involved a pay-off to a man who was on a three-year roll-over contract worth pounds 365,000 per annum, the whole situation remains a matter for speculation.

Norman's supportiveness might take the form of allowing the athletes who he manages, such as Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and John Regis, to take part in meetings as requested by the BAF - presumably through their new promotions officer, whoever he may turn out to be.

Had the BAF and Norman not been able to reach some accord, it could have created a profound split within British athletics, with some of the best- known athletes failing to support domestic meetings. That would have represented even worse news for sponsors who have had to accept the fact that ITV have reduced their deal with British athletics from four years to one.

Although Norman would require the BAF's permission to carry on his work as an athlete's agent, there is a strong argument that if permission were withheld it would constitute a restraint of trade which could be redressed in the courts.

Considering the damage which the protracted enquiry into Norman's behaviour has done to the image of British athletics, this was hardly a triumph of public relations.

The statement gave out mixed messages on the conduct of Norman, who is alleged to have threatened Temple verbally and spread rumours that he had sexually harassed one of the athletes he coached.

Radford emphasised that it was no part of his function to enquire into the causes of Temple's death. 'However,' he said 'I should add in fairness to the reputation of Mr Temple, the athlete concerned in the allegations and to Mr Norman himself, that Mr Norman stressed to me that the term 'sexual harassment' which he had used in a particular telephone conversation with Mr Temple was not intended to imply any sexual impropriety between Mr Temple and the athlete.'

Radford went on to praise Norman's contribution to British athletics, adding: 'I also hope a more balanced view of Andy Norman's contribution to British athletics will emerge in the media than has sometimes been the case recently.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- ANDY NORMAN FACT FILE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Age: 50. Born: Ipswich. Career: 23 years in Met Police. Retired as desk sergeant in 1984 to concentrate on athletics promotions. Athletics positions held: Former England team manager; British selector; member of European Athletic Association council; member of International Amateur Athletic Federation grand prix commission. Athletics career: County standard half-miler. Started his promotions career by organising small invitation meetings at Crystal Palace. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Norman's rise and fall, Tom McNab, page 46