Toni Minichiello, the man who guided Jessica Ennis from schoolgirl novice to Olympic heptathlon champion, has been issued with a "take it or leave it" ultimatum as he ponders whether to accept a consultancy role with UK Athletics. Minichiello has been officially redundant since his old role with the national governing body came to an end 10 days ago but has been offered a consultancy contract to continue to train Ennis.
Asked what the situation was with Minichiello, Peter Eriksson, the new head coach of UK Athletics, replied: "It's all in Toni's hands now. I don't want to talk too much about it because it seems to go round in circles like a never-ending story. But it's been in Toni's hands for quite a while. It's time to make up his mind, I think."
Asked what Minichiello's options are, Eriksson said: "Take it or leave it. It's always that, isn't it?"
Minichiello himself declined to respond last night but it is clear that UK Athletics have not been happy that he chose to talk about his change in circumstances in the media last week. "That's up to him," Eriksson said. "Doing the dirty laundry in public is never a good idea, I don't think, personally. But we have to move on because we have a big programme. We need to focus on that and the changes that we're implementing."
The nub of the problem is that Minichiello does not fit the new criteria for a full-time coaching role with UK Athletics. The governing body wants the majority of its employed coaches to be based at its new centralised national institute in Loughborough and only coaches who look after more than one world or Olympic medallist have been offered full-time salaries to work from alternative locations. Minichiello is not prepared to uproot Ennis from the Sheffield training base where her Olympic gold medal talent has been so impressively forged – despite the threat of closure to the Don Valley Stadium.
One might have expected an exception to have been made for someone who was last autumn crowned UK Sports Coach of the Year, and whose coaching skills have transformed Ennis from a 12-year-old track and field rookie into a national icon. As it is, Minichiello is faced with the alternative of taking a consultancy role on drastically-reduced terms or asking Ennis to pay for his services.
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