Eriksson denies UKA bullying culture

UKA head coach Peter Eriksson denies bullying culture at UKA and says Jess Ennis will not be “punished” for her coach Toni Minichiello’s decisions

Jessica Ennis (Mark Shearman)

UK Athletics chief Peter Eriksson has said that Jessica Ennis will not feel the force of recent disagreements between the Olympic heptathlon gold medallist’s coach Toni Minichiello and the governing body.

Minichiello was made redundant from his full-time job with the governing body last month after his previous four-year contract expired, despite his success in coaching Ennis to heptathlon gold in London last summer.

He has since turned down the offer of a part-time consultancy contract and has accused UKA of “a lack of respect ” and noted the “bullying culture” under Eriksson’s predecessor, Charles van Commenee, in the last Olympic cycle.

Eriksson has said he knew nothing of any bullying taking place and has confirmed that Ennis will not be “punished” for the decision of Minichiello, who was voted 2012 UK coach of the year, to cut ties with the governing body.

“This is nothing we punish anybody for,” said Eriksson, “rather the other way round that we will make sure she has what it takes.”

Minichiello falls outside new criteria for UKA funding requiring coaches to be based at its High Performance Centre in Loughborough unless they train a group including more than one Olympic or World Championship medallist. With Minichiello not wanting to move Ennis from Sheffield, UKA offered the coach the consultancy role, but those talks have broken down.

As a result, Ennis joins fellow London 2012 gold medallists Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford in having a coach that is not directly employed by UKA.

The 27-year-old, who is missing the indoor season this year to focus on the World Championships later this summer, may now fund Minichiello herself as she seeks to recapture her world title.

In other UKA news, Simon Nathan, former head of performance operations at the governing body, has been named as the new high performance director of Athletics Australia.

Nathan resigned from UKA, where he had worked since 2003 and was also a member of the UK Athletics Olympic Task Force, last week in order to accept the position at Athletics Australia. He is expected to start in his new Melbourne-based role in mid-March.

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