UKA’s search for a CEO

Athletics Weekly - - Letters -

THE de­par­ture of UKA CEO Niels de Vos was rapid to say the least (AW, Sept 20). Not long had the last starter’s pis­tol been fired to mark the end of the 2018 track sea­son than De Vos was clear­ing his desk. So speedy was his de­par­ture from Ath­let­ics House, some might sug­gest he was given the ‘Span­ish Archer’, as the cock­neys would say around the Queen El­iz­a­beth Sta­dium in Lon­don’s East End.

Strangely, the QE2 Sta­dium pos­si­bly led to De Vos’s down­fall af­ter the de­ba­cle of the ill-fated Ath­let­ics World Cup, which was held on the same week­end of a real World Cup fi­nal. The pub­lic were sold tick­ets to see star names that did not turn up, like Caster Semenya, while I heard the meet­ing costs spi­ralled.

I be­lieve De Vos had zero idea of our sport and hav­ing watched him closely at meet­ings and con­fer­ences he strug­gled to net­work. This was a trait that dogged him and, in turn, the sport in at­tract­ing new rev­enue, not to men­tion the du­bi­ous de­ci­sion to get rid of Alan Pas­coe’s busi­ness ex­per­tise in 2011, ex­per­tise that brought mil­lions to the sport and De Vos de­cided he could bring this in house and pro­duce the same re­sults, but he didn’t.

What’s the fu­ture for our sport’s next CEO? As a lead­ing light in the sport said to me: “Any­one that ap­plies for the CEO job is not some­one who should be em­ployed in the job.” It was a state­ment that no one who is of any note or ex­per­tise would want the UKA CEO po­si­tion, as the creek the UKA ca­noe is down does not come with a pad­dle.

Can we at­tract a ‘mav­er­ick busi­ness dragon’ to our sport to lead us out of the abyss? Given the re­ported de­tails of De Vos’s salary in the past, it would seem UKA has a bud­get to at­tract a de­cent CEO. So what’s next?

UKA will need to iden­tify the right can­di­dates and sell the po­si­tion to them. They need an ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness pro­fes­sional who un­der­stands our sport from its grass­roots to elite per­form­ers and the foun­da­tions that our sport is built on, which is the vol­un­teers.

We also need a per­son that un­der­stands the com­mer­cial as­pects and part­ner­ships of our sport, who can com­mu­ni­cate with in­vestors, civil ser­vants, race or­gan­is­ers and seek new rev­enue streams. A CEO that can also be in­volved to ap­point a board that will bring change with a struc­tured re­cov­ery strat­egy, which in­ci­den­tally could take four years.

At present only three of the nine board mem­bers have a strong his­tory and back­ground in ath­let­ics. But most of all we must have a CEO with pas­sion for our sport who is a mo­ti­va­tional char­ac­ter to present and sell our great sport to the UK and a per­son to work within the sport’s foun­da­tions to bring sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion and grow the sport in the UK.

Does such a per­son ex­ist? Yes, they do and the likes of Olympian Jon Rid­geon, who is a ma­jor part of CSM Sport, the com­pany that brought huge rev­enue to the sport, would be a prime can­di­date. The CEO of parkrun, Nick Pearson, whose lead­er­ship has seen the huge growth of parkrun with its mil­lions of mem­bers, would also be a huge as­set.

Will they be head-hunted by UKA chair­man Richard Bowker?

Matt Yates, via email

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