UKA’s search for a CEO
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