UK Athletics chief blindsided by shock sacking nine months before Paris 2024 | Athletics
The UK Athletics chief, Stephen Maguire, who guided Britain to a record-equalling 10 medals at the recent world championships in Budapest, was left completely blindsided by his shock sacking on Tuesday.
Multiple sources have told the Guardian that while there had been months of simmering tensions with the UKA chief executive, Jack Buckner, as well as rows over budgets before the Paris Olympics next year, Maguire had gone into a meeting at Loughborough expecting to discuss UKA’s worsening financial crisis. Instead he was told his services were no longer required.
The news was announced by UKA in a terse statement on Tuesday morning which did not even thank Maguire for his achievements.
The sport’s governing body has refused to comment on the reasons for his departure. But it is understood that its finances are in such bad shape that there have been discussions about the difficulties of sending British teams to events such as the world relays in the Bahamas.
However the loss of Maguire, who as technical director was in overall charge of the performance of British athletes, is only the latest in a series of crises to hit UKA. This year it had to make 10 staff redundant after reporting losses of £1.8m. There have been fears of further cuts after it made a six-figure loss from the Diamond League in London this summer, despite the event selling out, further cutting into £430,000 of reserves it has left.
There are fears that UKA’s lack of funds could affect athletes’ preparations for Paris, and the disaffection among the British team was reflected by the women’s national 100m and 200m record holder, Dina Asher‑Smith, who called on UKA to explain what she called its “incredibly short-sighted decision”.
“Would love to see a full explanation of the reasoning behind this disappointing decision for the athletes and our performances,” Asher‑Smith wrote on Instagram. “Stephen has been phenomenal, so dedicated, and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to be successful at track and field.”
Asher-Smith made it clear that Maguire would be a huge loss and said that his talent and ability was a key factor in the British team’s “overwhelming success in Budapest” – adding that it had put the athletes on “an amazing path to Paris”.
“From the outside looking in it seems like an incredibly short-sighted decision made without considering that we are in an Olympic year,” she added. “And what it takes to perform at the highest level.”
When Maguire was appointed in June 2022, UKA described him as “the best person to lead the world-class programme towards Paris and Los Angeles”. Less than 16 months later he is out – despite British athletes winning 10 medals at the worlds in Budapest, equalling their performance in Stuttgart in 1993.
The Northern Irishman was well regarded, although he did have differences of opinion with his head of sprints, Darren Campbell, including over the direction of the 4x100m relay team. Campbell has been on gardening leave since July.
Paula Dunn, who has had a range of jobs at UKA including leading their Paralympics team, is expected to be named as the interim head coach in the coming days.