Athletics: Moorcroft departure renews talk of bigger 2012 input from Coe

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The Independent Online

Dave Moorcroft resigned yesterday as chief executive of UK Athletics, a position in which the 53-year-old former world 5,000 metres record holder has become increasingly beleaguered.

Moorcroft's decision will be greeted with relief by some board members of UK Sport, the Government's funding body, and by the chairman of the British Olympic Association, Colin Moynihan, who opined earlier this year that, given the need to improve performances for the 2012 London Olympics, British athletics should be taken over by the man who led that bid, Sebastian Coe.

Moorcroft is a decent man who has overseen a regeneration of the sport since taking his position nine years ago. Having inherited an organisation on the brink of collapse - the British Athletic Federation went bust 10 days after he took over in 1997 - he has steered it to a position where it has just signed a £50m sponsorship deal with Norwich Union and stands to benefit from £20m of government funding, on top of National Lottery money.

Moorcroft's departure, which will take place in six months , has opened up an intriguing vacancy, though it does not look like Coe would have time to take on the role, given his commitment to the 2012 Games. Nor does Steve Cram, chairman of the English Institute of Sport, feel it suitable for him.

Nick Bitel,the London Marathon's chief executive and a UK Sport board member, said that UKA needed to restructure, with the tier above the chief executive - currently a president's role occupied by Lynn Davies - taking on greater influence. Such a role might suit Coe.

London's successful bid for the 2012 Games has concentrated minds on the need to ensure the flagship Olympic sport thrives in Britain. Awful results at last year's World Championships, and poor performances at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships this year prompted some to agitate for change.

Moorcroft said he had made his decision "at the end of July'' - before the European Championships, where poor performance was compounded by the Commonwealth 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu facing a ban for missing three drug tests.

"I originally planned to go after the 2008 Beijing Olympics,'' Moorcroft said. "You tend to think in four-year cycles. But I realised in the last year or so - is it healthy or right I remain in the post until 2012? That would have been 15 years in the same job, and that would not have been good. So if I was going to go before, how much time did my successor need? The answer was as long as possible.''

Moorcroft said he had revealed his decision yesterday to the UKA Sport performance director, Dave Collins and added thatCollins would not be undermined. "Dave has only had five minutes to make changes and it's desperately important he continues to get support for the very good job he's doing," he said.