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Joanna Coates

Joanna Coates

Joanna Coates, the former Head of England Netball is the Chief Executive heading one of the toughest role in British sport, the UK Athletics. She became the Chief Executive in February, 2020.

Career

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Joanna Coates is one of the most baddest women in UK sports.

From 2015 to 2019, Joanna Coates was England Netball's CEO and worked with the governing body for almost ten years.

She was part of the team during her time in charge which led the Vitality Roses to victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where they won their historic gold medal. The sport was also experiencing record growth during her tenure.

Coates took on a new challenge in February, 2020 and was appointed CEO of UK Athletics after a turbulent year for the organisation

Coates' Career and Early Challenges

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Confidence in the organisation, through a succession of scandals, misjudgments and resignations, has been consistently eroded, prompting Coates to dub her new position as UK Athletics Chief Executive as "the toughest role in British sport."[8]

Yet England Netball's former head, who left the organization last year in August, is in no mood to shirk her responsibilities as she tries to turn around the sport.[16]

Coates confirmed in her first major decision to give UK Athletics an internal report – produced in 2015 – on the relationship between Mo Farah and his now disgraced former coach Alberto Salazar to UK Anti-Doping. Which had previously released a statement

"remind the UKA that it is bound by the National Anti-Doping Policy."

This is a promising development for Coates, and hopefully the first step towards restoring a governing body that has been brought to its knees by gross mismanagement over the past few years – but the company has several more obstacles to conquer.

The first is the independent analysis initiated by UK Sport that will scrutinize UK Athletics

"strategy, leadership, governance, service, community and connectivity."

With UKA allocating £26.9 million in funding for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics cycle, the review may result in funding cuts in the event that the governing body fails to meet the standards set by UK Sport.

However, Coates welcomed the study, headed by the former Culture, Media and Sport Department secretary, Dame Sue Lane

"To make any of this shift, it gives us a great forum, because it gives you extra gravitas,"

Coates said.

"It's perfect for a CEO to have [...] we [now] have a chance to write a strategy and a plan focused on very simple behaviours."

The second challenge is UKA 's financial predicament.

The organization's cash reserves remain at a ten-year low of £2.8 m, with contributing factors including their HMRC 500k tax bill after refusing to pay tax on their Nike kit contract, as well as hosting the 2018 Athletics World Cup, which is believed to have cost UKA nearly £ 2 m.

The third barrier to negotiating is a lack of trust held by UKA athletes and coaches.

In the run-up to the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Doha, selectors not only had the discretion to reject invitations from World Athletics to athletes who had obtained the IAAF standard, but could also send athletes who had fallen short of the qualification mark.[17]

The policy seemed to be guided by a narrow focus on winning Medals, rather than developing athletes and exposing them to competitors of the world class.

Scottish Athletics has also expressed concerns about UKA 's governance, with Chairman Ian Beattie and Chief Executive Mark Munro suggesting in a letter to UKA that the relentless pursuit of medals came at the expense of ethics and sensitivity.

One section of the letter read that there is

"a lack of confidence by the entire athletics community in UKA's decision-making processes, particularly around high-performance funding for athletes."

The centralisation of sport at Loughborough has courted disaffection from a wider viewpoint.

Coaches, the vast majority of whom are unpaid volunteers, are often impotent as the athletes they have guided at the high-performance center from a young age switch to national performance coaches, denying them the opportunity to train an athlete to their full potential.

In the short term, of course, there are nothing Joanna Coates can do about it, but such a situation epitomizes the simmering frustration visible in the broader athletics community around the UK.

Nonetheless, the Coates signs indicate she intends to cultivate a fresh outlook on British athletics at a time when it is most needed

"I think that the company needs much better leadership, moving forward," she said.

"I also think that the sport needs to work together through the entire executive and each of the directorates.

The CEO needs to get a better understanding of what is going on in the company.

However, what is evident from Coates' early comments is that she wants to develop a positive relationship with competitors in athletics at all levels – and improving the sport's culture is what will restore confidence and help UKA recover from a difficult series of setbacks.

"Success can not determine enterprise," she said.

"So I feel that way.

Big corporate decisions should be taken and people should understand what's happening in their company.

"We will review the company as a whole to see if people are fit for the purpose of moving forward this business.

"I don't want gold at all costs, during my term."

Such an approach may have been dismissed as defeatist or unambitious in years gone by but there is a feeling that it is the right time for a new viewpoint.

Coates will need time and support to help UKA recover its fortunes; she surely stands a better chance than many of her predecessors with these.

Joanna Coates' Role in playing down bankruptcy fears of UK Athletics

Joanna Coates has dismissed insolvency concerns in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. Three weeks to her appointment the body began furloughing staff as it looks to cut costs.

British Cycling put 90 staff on furlough on Wednesday, April 8 2020 ahead of an anticipated £ 4 million drop in revenue, while UK Sport Chief Katherine Grainger suggested that governing bodies may face bankruptcy, which is the pandemic's financial impact.

But Coates believes that despite only three weeks into her role, while the cash reserves depletes UK Athletics will survive. Dame Katherine Grainger has suggested that some governing bodies (Nick Ansell / PA) may face bankruptcy

"We 're not in a position to look at the bankruptcy, we 're not one of those of which Katherine alludes because we have a good commercial arm,"

she said

"Our reserve position is low and that is something I'm going to be looking at in the near future with Nic (Coward) the chair.

It must be much stronger but we are not afraid of bankruptcy.

"(With furloughing) we would probably have done it a little sooner if I had been in the role for a longer time.

We had to collect all the paperwork to go live and have the conversations."

This isn't one of the first things that Coates wanted to do.

She has began looking at a limited number of head office employees and someone on the results side.

That's a little more complicated with Lottery funding earning.

The Role of UK Athletics

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UK Athletics, as the national governing body for athletics, governs the creation and management of the popular Olympic and Paralympic sport of the United Kingdom, from the grassroots to the podium.

British Athletics has grown since its establishment to become the world's most effective and comprehensive governing body for athletics.

This has evolved over the years to create a consistent vision for the sport – pushing up competition and raising standards in every game, area and age group.

This dream is fuelled by a committed team of full-time employees and part-time volunteers headed by Joanna Coates, who all share the same athletic passion and determination, thereby making sure that athletics remains the most successful Olympic and Paralympic sport.

Yet UK Athletics' purpose is not to end in preparing athletes for the world stage.

Not only does it create mass appeal through televised events for a truly breathtaking spectator sport, UK Athletics also plays a fundamental role in developing a 'sport for all' by encouraging participation regardless of your age, ability or background.

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