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Woodward's Olympic challenge

By Matt Slater

Sir Clive Woodward
Woodward's appointment surprised many in British Olympic sport
Sir Clive Woodward wants a "change of mindset" in British Olympic sport as doubts are raised about his first year as Team GB's performance director.

BBC Sport spoke to 28 of the 35 Olympic sports and while some were positive, 18 said he had made no impact so far.

But Woodward said he was not shocked by these findings and was now ready to start making a real difference.

"Some sports don't need touching but we've got to crank up other sports and we've got to do it quickly," he said.

"There are some fantastic programmes out there - cycling, rowing, sailing, I've just gone 'wow' - but there are a lot of sports that we're going to have to move into a whole new mindset and way of doing things.

"The clock is seriously ticking.

In the past the BOA have perhaps been glorified travel agents but Clive has already sharpened their thinking

Dave Brailsford, British Cycling's performance director

I don't see how he can help - is he just a figurehead?

A national performance director

He's dedicated to elite performance, has fresh ideas and believes that no compromise means no compromise

Colin McIver, British Judo's performance director

Is Clive's model adaptable? How is it funded? How does it sit alongside the UK Sport system? But had this come along seven years ago... who knows?

A senior performance director with a leading sport

"There's obviously a lot of talking going on - I just hope they've been working hard at their jobs too and not just wondering what I'm doing."

Woodward, who was appointed the British Olympic Association's elite performance director last September, said he has spent the last 12 months learning "what elite sport looks like".

BBC Sport canvassed opinion from all the summer and winter Olympic sports and of the 28 national performance directors who agreed to answer our questions many said they are still uncertain about Woodward's role.

The main source of confusion was how it fits into the existing structure run by UK Sport, the body that allocates public money for elite sport.

Ten of the 28 said Woodward has made no contact with them at all, and another five said there has been only limited contact with the BOA's new performance guru.

One national performance director, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "(Woodward's role) could/should really help us but so far not yet.

"We are still waiting and frankly we are disappointed with the impact so far."

BBC Sport's Matt Slater

But Woodward, who memorably led England to victory in the Rugby World Cup in 2003, rejected this criticism of his first year, saying he has seen "a cross section of sports" and has met leading athletes and coaches from around the world.

"I went where I needed to go," Woodward said, before adding that he had spent considerable time with sports such as boxing and judo, both of whom were full of praise for his efforts so far.

"It would have been wrong to go charging in to all the sports saying 'this is what I think' or talking about rugby. That would have wasted everyone's time."

Sir Clive Woodward
1956 Born 6 Jan in Ely
1974 Joins Harlequins, leaves to study at Loughborough
1979 Joins Leicester, where he stays for six years
1980 Makes England debut, goes on Lions tour to S Africa
1984 Wins last of 21 England caps
1985 Goes to Australia with Xerox, plays for Manly
1990 Returns to UK, starts coaching at Henley, moves on to London Irish and Bath
1997 Becomes England coach
2003 England beat Australia in Sydney to win World Cup
2004 Given knighthood but quits as England coach
2005 Leads disastrous Lions tour to N Zealand, takes job in football at Southampton
2006 Misses out on England director of rugby job, joins BOA

The decision to hire Woodward was taken by the BOA's chairman (and former sports minister) Lord Moynihan and chief executive Simon Clegg, and stemmed from discussions between the three that started in 2004.

Clegg told BBC Sport it was "entirely appropriate" for the BOA to take a more central role in the preparation of Team GB before 2012 as "all matters are more acute" with host-nation status.

But many within Olympic sport have expressed concerns about a blurring of the lines between the BOA's traditional role at the Games and UK Sport's remit as the primary funding agency and support leader for top-level sport.

Frank Dick, the former director of coaching for UK Athletics, said: "Who's in charge here? Like an orchestra, there has to be one score and one conductor.

"But for as long as you don't join up the dots and connect the whole thing, you will first get tension and ultimately get chaos."

Clegg and Woodward, however, have denied there is any crossover and both pointed to the former England rugby centre's work on an elite performance "model" as an example of the kind of service the BOA can provide for the individual Olympic sports.

Woodward, who joined the BOA after a year in football at Southampton, has based his "model" on an amateur golfer called Melissa Reid.

"I wanted to give (the Olympic sports) a live example so I put in an elite performance plan behind this young girl to see how it would work," said the 51-year-old, who is convinced Team GB can achieve its goal of finishing fourth in the 2012 medal table.

"It allows me to show Olympic sports what I'm doing and not just talk theory. I think I'm in a position now where I can say what I think."

Woodward, in fact, was set to demonstrate his plan to all the sports in a meeting that the BOA called shortly after BBC Sport started to investigate this subject.

Dame Kelly Holmes's two-gold haul from Athens
Woodward thinks Team GB will need 18-20 golds to finish fourth in 2012
In an e-mail, which BBC Sport has obtained, Clegg sought to reassure the BOA's most senior members - which include the Princess Royal and FA chief executive Brian Barwick - about Woodward's work and drew attention to his "high performance support structure model using one of our country's top lady amateur golfers".

That demonstration, initially scheduled for early October, has now been put back until after the current Rugby World Cup, by which time Woodward will have started to work with his first Olympic athlete, Scottish judo player Euan Burton.

Woodward, however, will need to be at his persuasive best as a significant number of Olympic sports harbour serious doubts about the adaptability and relevance of his work with Reid.

One national performance director told BBC Sport: "I did not realise golf was an Olympic sport. Surely a high performance support structure based on a rower, cyclist or sailor would have been more suitable."

While another said: "We are naturally cautious of anything that muddies the situation.

"And there are concerns about an overlap of responsibilities and the funding. There is already a 100m shortfall (in the funding from UK Sport) that must be raised privately."

But Woodward, whose funding must also be raised from the private sector, dismissed these fears before adding that the decision to work with his new elite performance unit would ultimately be down to each sport.

"I can understand why a few people were a bit confused (about my role) but I'm quite confused by a lot of people's jobs. I don't worry about it, though," he said.

"And if they want to see what we're doing (now), and I suggest they should, that's good. But if they don't, that's fine too, it's up to them. I just hope they win gold medals in London."

Comment: Where Woodward can help
09 Oct 07 |  Sport Homepage
Olympic tensions 'must be sorted'
08 Oct 07 |  Olympics 2012
Woodward tees up Olympic success
08 Oct 07 |  Olympics 2012
BOA pledges Winter Games support
19 May 07 |  Winter Sports
Olympic sports must earn funding
08 May 07 |  Olympics 2012
Boxing to get Woodward overhaul
16 Feb 07 |  Olympics 2012
Companies to help Olympic sports
14 Feb 07 |  Olympics 2012
Athletics boss tempers 2012 hopes
06 Feb 07 |  Athletics
Woodward focused on Olympic glory
29 Sep 06 |  Olympics 2012
Moynihan defends Woodward record
07 Sep 06 |  Other Sport...
British Olympics job for Woodward
06 Sep 06 |  Other Sport...


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