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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 19:03 GMT
Chairman's challenge
By Sarah Holt

For the first time in its eight-year history, UK Athletics has appointed a chairman.

Athletics chiefs, seeking to give the organisation real leadership, sprung a surprise when they appointed a chairman from outside the sport, in the shape of Ed Warner.

A highly-regarded businessman first and an amateur runner second, Warner's first task will be to appoint a chief executive.

BBC Sport takes a look at the new man at the helm of the sport.

WHO IS WARNER?

Despite running seven marathons over the last five years, Warner is under no illusions that he has been employed by UK Athletics for his business brain rather than his athletic feats.

New UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner
Warner comes from a background in business to his first job in sport

The 43-year-old, who is an active member of Fittleworth Flyers running club, has an impressive CV in the City.

Last year, Warner stood down as the chief executive of financial trading company, the IFX Group, to seek new challenges.

His three-year tenure with IFX bodes well for UKA, as on his departure Warner was praised for successfully restructuring, expanding and increasing profitability at the company.

Warner is also a leading financial commentator, presenting the business news on Radio 4's Today programme every Friday and writing a regular column for the Daily Telegraph.

Warner's radio editor at the BBC's Economics and Business Centre, Julian Bailey, expects Warner to apply his business acumen to his new role at UKA.

"Ed runs businesses and he has been brought in to ensure athletics is run in a way that befits a nation that is holding the 2012 Olympics," said Bailey.

"He has a fabulous reputation in the City as an authoritative analyst and a manager of financial companies. He is a top man, and that is why we recruited him."

WHAT WILL THE CHAIRMAN DO?

As the new chairman, Warner is one half of an executive partnership that athletics chiefs hope will move forward a huge and at times befuddled organisation.

Warner's first job is to find the chief executive, who will work alongside him. In fact, he has already been involved in interviewing the final candidates and expects the search to be concluded by the end of January.

Outgoing chief executive Dave Moorcroft was expected to juggle both roles and the decision to split his job in two means Warner can focus on providing much-needed leadership from above.

Outgoing chairman David Moorcroft
Moorcroft had to please everybody in his dual role at UKA

He will be expected to be a figurehead who can unite the disparate strands of UKA, from the clubs and the volunteers that run them to the elite level coaches and athletes, and to act as a public spokesman.

With a 50m sponsorship deal from Norwich Union banked in 2006, Warner does not have to worry about UKA's finances in the immediate future but has put securing the finances of the sport beyond 2012 among his priorities.

Warner is concerned about increasing podium places, particularly as Moorcroft's resignation came after Britain won just one gold medal (in the men's 4x100m relay) at the 2006 European Championships.

However, the amateur runner has stated he has no intention of becoming an amateur coach and has a clear vision of the top-down chain of authority he wants to put in place.

"The chairman will govern, the chief executive will manage the business and the performance director (Dave Collins) will manage the performance of the team," said Warner. "That is the triangle we have to get right."

But whether Warner can manage this on his contracted 20 days a year could be his biggest challenge of all.

WHAT THE EXPERTS THINK OF WARNER

London 2012 Chairman Lord Coe: "I have already had the pleasure of meeting Ed and I am looking forward to working with him as he leads the sport through its next stage of development as we prepare for 2012 and beyond.

"His track record in business speaks volumes and his vision will be a welcome addition to the athletics community."

Steve Cram: "I don't have a problem with the fact that he is not from an athletics background, it probably helps that he is not engrossed in the sport.

"His business abilities will be a big help. It is important that he has leadership abilities as that is what UK Athletics has been lacking."

Sports Minister Richard Caborn: "Ed's proven leadership and success in business will be invaluable in laying a strong foundation to help boost standards in athletics at school and club level while delivering medals on the highest stage.

"Ed shares my passion for long-distance running and I know he'll bring stamina and dedication to his new role."

Five Live athletics commentator Mike Costello: "He clearly has strong experience in business and this sport needs a business head at the top.

"I was impressed with his delivery, candour and confidence. He is approachable and confident. There was not a single question put to him at the media conference that he could not answer."

606 DEBATE: Give your thoughts on Warner's appointment

SEE ALSO
Businessman to head UK Athletics
09 Jan 07 |  Athletics
Moorcroft quits as athletics boss
24 Aug 06 |  Athletics
Central contracts for GB athletes
05 Apr 06 |  Athletics


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