Lord Coe cuts staff by half as post-London reality bites


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The Independent Online

Sebastian Coe has overseen a drastic 50 per cent cut in the number of staff employed by the British Olympic Association as the new chairman attempts to reduce the body's financial "fragility" in the wake of the London Games.

The BOA oversaw Britain's sporting success at last summer's Olympics but funding such a large home team and failure to attract as much commercial revenue as expected left the body facing financial difficulties. Clive Woodward and chief executive Andy Hunt are among those who have departed since the Games as staff numbers have been reduced from the mid-nineties to 45 in what Coe described as a "traumatic" time for the BOA.

"It has been a very difficult period for this organisation," said Coe, who is seeking to take "the fragility out of the balance sheet. We have had a large number of people that left. For some it has been traumatic."

Coe succeeded Colin Moynihan as chairman of the BOA in November and inherited an organisation that faced significant challenges before next year's Sochi Winter Games and the Rio Olympics in 2016. A new plan for the next "quad", the period up to the Rio Games, has been agreed, with the BOA aiming to raise £42m to help send significant, but smaller, teams to the next Winter and Summer Games and, with reduced costs, leave it on a sturdier financial footing.

Coe insists he is "very confident" that target can be reached – the BOA announced Nissan as its first new sponsor, with another to be revealed shortly. Both will be tier one sponsors – an approach adopted from Coe's time in charge of London 2012, with different levels of backing – and some of Nissan's backing will be in kind, via transport for the team at Games time.

"It is tough out there," Coe said, "and most sports will tell you the same. A lot of businesses that partnered around the Games have taken a pause [to] see what is the next move for them." Coe's aim is to get the BOA out of a cycle of "feast to famine, famine to feast". "We have to be more creative," he said. "We should always be living within our means."

Under Moynihan and Hunt, staffing costs rose dramatically to £5.4m for 2011 and even higher for 2012, for which figures are not yet available. It is expected that the 2012 figures will reveal a record funding deficit of £2m. Hunt will be replaced in due course once the new role has been agreed with the board.

Coe is to meet the RFU chief executive, Ian Ritchie, next month to discuss how the British rugby sevens squad will be selected, as well as consulting with the other home unions. Britain plan to field men's and women's teams. The qualifying process has not yet been spelt out, but it is likely the RFU will oversee the process as the Football Association did during the last Olympics. Rugby's Rio debut is more complicated for Team GB because of the need to come through qualifying at tournaments in which England, Wales and Scotland compete separately.

Rory's place is at Rio tee party

Seb Coe has urged golfer Rory McIlroy to compete at the Rio Olympics whether for Britain or Ireland. "I hope Rory's there," Coe said. McIlroy may yet be deemed eligible to play for GB despite representing Ireland in World Cups. The BOA is looking into eligibility rules.

Robin Scott-Elliot