New UKA CEO Joanna Coates has positive and strong message for the future of the Sport in Britain

From left to right – Denise Lewis, Joanna Coactes, Gabby Logan

Following the conclusion of the British Athletics Championships in Manchester, Joanna Coates, the new CEO of UKA joined BBC Athletics presenters Denise Lewis and Gabby Logan for a discussion about the new vision for the governing body.

Joanna Coates, who took over as UKA CEO this year, is leading the sport into a new era full of positivity,

Gabby Logan, BBC Sport presenter, began the conversation by mentioning that Joanna had taken the job 5 days before the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Joanna shared her impressions of her first national championships stating: “It’s just been fantastic, it’s been wonderful to be here…. It was so important for the sport to have something this year, so it’s been brilliant. And it’s been lovely to meet people that I have only seen across Teams [Microsoft Teams] and to finally meet people in person which has just been fab.”

Jo went on to explain that during lockdown she has spent a lot of time speaking with athletes, coaches, officials and many of the staff within British Athletics. She has also led the recruitment of some of British Athletics biggest roles including the new Performance Director Sara Symington and new Head Coach Christian Malcolm.

When asked about the challenges the sport faces, Jo stated:

“British Athletics has had a few troubles over the last few years, so I knew this was a big job. I think I said when I was interviewed this was probably the biggest job in British sport. It is going to be a re-wire for the sport.

We absolutely need to look at our coaching structure, coaches have been left unloved for a little while I think. We need to look at some event innovation and we need a really solid plan for the next 12 years.

There was a big piece around recruitment and bringing in the right PD and Head Coach because I can’t do this on my own. I need a fantastic group of people around me.”

Presenter Gabby Logan continued the discussion by addressing the issue around medal targets which have traditionally been placed on the British team at major championships.

“Because of the UK Sport funding, which is amazing – sport wouldn’t be in the shape it is without it, you have to hit certain medal targets for them. But for me, it’s more about developing more of the pathway.

So it is absolutely about delivering Olympic and Paralympic medals, we have to do that for our funding, but its about delivering those pathways, looking at talent. There will be targets for Sara and Christian that sit outside of the medals.”

Olympic Gold Medallist and British sporting hero Denise Lewis asked Joanna to elaborate more on the culture of the sport, and how Joanna will implement change of the current and historical negative culture of UKA, asking what her vision is for the future:

“It’s all about behaviours and how people behave. For me, the new culture looks like the 4 home countries working together as one single voice, one single vision for the sport and everybody understanding what part they play in that.

It’s about re-engaging with athletes, which is sad to say, we have lost contact with and that’s not a great place. We want them to love their national governing body and that’s a lot about the way we behave.

I want people to be proud of their governing body and a lot of that is about the way we behave. That’s how you encourage people to trust you and want to be with you.

Both Sara and Christian went through a rigorous process because that’s what we were really looking for. We were looking for people who exhibited excellent behaviour, really good integrity, that the athletes would believe in and buy back into.

It’s really difficult when people say ‘ but what is the culture’. I know what it feels like when you walk into an office or coming to something like this. It’s that feeling you get that there is a good culture and a good vibe.

With Joanna Coates at the helm, the future is bright for the sport in the U.K. We wish Joanna, Sara Symington and Christian Malcolm all the best for their new roles and reiterate the continuing support of the FCN and the community of female track & field coaches.

Lots of exciting developments to follow – watch this space!