In a tacit move to erase decisions made under previous regimes, UK Athletics has lured Stephen Maguire back to the organisation and given him the country’s most senior coaching position.
Maguire was widely considered favourite to be appointed UK Athletics Olympic head coach when the role became available in late 2020. However, he was so angry at being overlooked in favour Christian Malcolm, his junior at the governing body, that he quit his job as the federation’s head of sprints, hurdles and relays.
The decision to choose Malcolm was made by former chief executive Jo Coates, who also controversially brought in former cyclist Sara Symington as performance director. The shock resignation of Coates and Symington on the same day last October meant the arrival of a new regime, which had spent much of the past year attempting to coax the well-respected Maguire into returning.
Malcolm was last week told he will be axed under a shake-up that makes his role redundant - a decision he admitted left him “very disappointed” - and it was confirmed on Wednesday that his departure paves the way for Maguire to return in the newly created position of UK Athletics technical director from the end of this outdoor season.
Maguire was at the forefront of a huge turnaround in Britain’s sprint relay fortunes, creating a buy-in and focus from athletes that had long been lacking during an extended period of under-performance and disqualifications. Both British men and women’s 4x100 metres teams won medals at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships under his leadership.
Since quitting UK Athletics, he has spent the last 17 months as head of high performance coaching at Sport Ireland.
“The appointment of the technical director role is one we are delighted with and feel gives us the best person to lead the programme towards Paris and Los Angeles [Olympics],” said Mark Munro, interim UK Athletics chief executive.
“Stephen brings great experience and an excellent track record within high performance athletics. It is another piece in the jigsaw as we continue to prioritise more effective support to athletes and coaches.”
Maguire’s return leaves former sprinter Malcolm in a precarious position after he was surprisingly chosen as Olympic head coach just six years after retiring from his competitive running career. Despite being widely liked within the sport, many believed his promotion was premature.
His role will cease to exist beyond the summer, and although UK Athletics have confirmed they will “explore other roles [for him] within the structure” any internal move would be a demotion.
The change in senior positions is the latest attempt to stabilise an organisation that has seen endless upheaval in recent years, with numerous chairmen and chief executives unable to deflect continuous criticism from inside and outside the sport.
Dismay among coaches and athletes reached a crescendo immediately prior to Coates and Symington’s departures last October when a furious group of Tokyo Olympians pleaded with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe to step in and they even discussed resigning from their UK Athletics contracts.
Former world 5,000m medallist and current British Swimming chief executive Jack Buckner will take over as UK Athletics permanent chief executive in July, working alongside Ian Beattie, who was appointed chairman last September.
The governing body said Malcolm’s departure would coincide with a boost in “support, engagement and financial investment” for athletes and coaches, as well as the creation of new senior coaching positions.