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Woodward's Olympic challenge

By Matt Slater

Frank Dick and Denise Lewis
Frank Dick presided over British athletics' 1980s glory days
The former head coach of UK Athletics has urged the two key bodies in British Olympic sport to stop bickering before Team GB's 2012 hopes are harmed.

Frank Dick told BBC Sport the strained relationship between the British Olympic Association (BOA) and UK Sport must be resolved "as soon as possible".

"Let's get everybody together around a table to sort this out," said Dick.

"London 2012 will be here quicker than you can blink so everybody has to work together or we'll have a problem."

BBC Sport's Matt Slater
Dick was speaking after research conducted by BBC Sport confirmed that many Olympic sports are concerned about a potentially distracting squabble between Great Britain's national Olympic committee and the main funding agency for elite sport.

That squabble is thought to stem from what some perceive as the BOA's move into UK Sport's territory.

A key part of this "move" was the surprise appointment of former England rugby union coach Sir Clive Woodward as the BOA's elite performance director - an appointment that was widely viewed as a shot across UK Sport's bows.

In the years between Olympics, the BOA, which is not funded or controlled by government, has traditionally taken a back-seat role, content to let the respective sports and - since its establishment in 1996 - UK Sport take the lead in preparing for the next Games.

Why didn't somebody join up the dots? There has to be a sense of strategy and I'm not sure that exists

Frank Dick
Former UK Athletics head coach
Several national performance directors told BBC Sport the BOA has, in the past, been little more than an Olympic accreditation and travel agency.

But when London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics it became clear that this uneasy compromise would not survive.

A senior administrator who has worked on both sides of the divide said: "This is another example of the constitutional mess that is the UK.

"On the one hand you have an apolitical body, with high-performance aspirations, that is accountable to the media. And on the other you have a funding agency that actually has a high-performance side but is accountable to the government.

"On top of that you have the governing bodies for the sports who have an allegiance to one body but are funded by the other.

Lord Colin Moynihan, Sir Clive Woodward and Simon Clegg
Moynihan, Woodward and Clegg want a bigger role for the BOA
"So there is inherently conflict there and it must be dealt with sensitively."

Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, said: "As the national Olympic committee responsible for ensuring we deliver the performance the nation will be proud of in 2012, it is entirely appropriate we do everything in our power to ensure that British athletes have the chance to fulfil their potential.

"There is a lot more responsibility that goes with being the host nation. There is an expectation that (we) will perform at a much higher level."

Sue Campbell, the chair of UK Sport, denied that Woodward's arrival was an implicit criticism of her organisation's elite-performance framework, which is led by Peter Keen and Liz Nicholl.

"If you think about the challenge we have with 2012, where we're trying to take our position in the medal table from 10th to 4th, it's a big, big job," said Campbell.

"Everybody - and certainly somebody of Clive's expertise - can contribute. This isn't a closed-shop, we want the best people working with our athletes."

It is the BOA's exclusive responsibility to prepare, select, manage and lead our country's finest athletes at the quadrennial celebration of the Games

Simon Clegg
BOA chief executive
Campbell, who lectured Woodward when he was a student at Loughborough in the 1970s, stressed that UK Sport was eager to work with the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach. As evidence of this, Campbell pointed to Woodward's inclusion on UK Sport's "Mission 2012" panel.

Mission 2012 is a seven-strong group chaired by UK Sport chief executive John Steele that includes Keen, Nicholl and athlete-turned-commentator Steve Cram. Its remit will be to meet on a quarterly basis to ensure that the 26 summer sports are on track to deliver success in London.

"We are focused, we know what our job is, we know what we're doing, we know it's a challenge and we won't get distracted," added Campbell.

"The BOA has a very right and proper role. They do a terrific job at the Games and in the holding camp. They also have a role in representing the views of the governing bodies and they should be expressed openly and frankly with us.

"Everybody has got so much to do between now and 2012 we all just need to get on with the job to be honest."

But not everybody is convinced that the contradictions and duplications that seem to exist between the BOA's plans and UK Sport's can so easily be resolved.

British cyclist Yvonne McGregor and coach Peter Keen in 2000
Peter Keen was a huge hit as British Cycling's performance boss
"A decision was made at some point to bring in person B to do a job that person A was already doing," said Dick, the president of the European Athletics Coaches Association.

"Why didn't somebody join up the dots? There has to be a sense of strategy and I'm not sure that exists.

"Who is in charge? It can't be Sir Clive Woodward. Is it Peter Keen? It should be, I could buy that."

And one national performance director said: "(Woodward) has already walked away from a high-paid position where the system wasn't right for him (when he quit as England rugby union coach in 2004).

"It seems strange that he would go to a place where there is even less chance of that being right. You would imagine him going to UK Sport."

Clegg, however, rejected the suggestion Woodward was the "right man in the wrong job".

"He's the right man in the right job," said the BOA's chief executive. "Otherwise I wouldn't have asked him to take on the role.

"Whether people like it or not, it is the British Olympic Association's exclusive responsibility to prepare, select, manage and lead our country's finest athletes at the quadrennial celebration of the summer and winter Games.

"And at no time in our history is that more acute than delivering when we're hosting the Games in 2012."

Comment: Where Woodward can help
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Woodward demands Olympic overhaul
08 Oct 07 |  Olympics 2012
Woodward tees up Olympic success
08 Oct 07 |  Olympics 2012
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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