Adams takes the baton as UK Athletics chief as chairman Clark resigns
UK Athletics, the national governing body now subject to an external review by UK Sport, has today appointed Joanna Adams, formerly of England Netball, as its new chief executive amid further leadership changes at the embattled organisation.
Chris Clark, who was appointed as interim chair last June, is stepping down as soon as Adams takes charge, and will be replaced on a temporary basis until the end of 2020 by Nic Coward, who has himself been filling in as chief executive for the last month.
Clark is to remain involved with UKA helping to devise a new commercial plan.
Adams (pictured) only took up a new role as chief commercial officer at the London Legacy Development Corporation, the legacy body for the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games, last autumn, having previously been chief executive of England Netball from 2015 to 2019.
She will become UKA's first permanent chief executive since September 2018, when long-time incumbent Niels de Vos suddenly announced he would be stepping down.
Adams is well regarded from her time at England Netball where she helped to bring in Vitality, the UK-based life insurance company, as a sponsor of the governing body, the 2019 World Cup, the Netball Superleague, the domestic clubs competition, and the Netball International Series, England’s home internationals.
She was also involved in England's successful bid for the World Cup, which was held in Liverpool.
The latest changes, which come just five months before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, mean that over the past 18 months, UK Athletics has lost two chairs, two chief executives, and its experienced performance director Neil Black.
The organisation also has two internal reviews into various aspects of its conduct ongoing, and earlier this week was informed by UK Sport that an external review into its governance, structure and leadership would commence soon.
After de Vos resigned in 2018, after 11 years in charge, UKA thought it had found a permanent replacement last August, when Zara Hyde Peters, the former head of British Triathlon, accepted a job offer.
However, she never took up the post, after media reports broke days before she was due to take charge in December relating to a historic safeguarding case involving her husband.
Adams' start date has yet to be confirmed, but at that point Clark will step down and instead serve as an advisor to the UKA board,on “the development of a commercial plan for the sport, and working with the new senior team on developing partnerships and sponsorships”, according to a statement.
Nic Coward, former general secretary of English soccer’s Premier League, who has been filling in as interim chief executive since Hyde Peters decided not to take the role, will act as interim chair for the remainder of 2020.
It has been reported that Clark, who became chair after previous incumbent Richard Bowker resigned in January 2019, was surprised at the amount of time the job was consuming.
Clark said: “Joanna’s appointment and her track record of success in not only sports governance but also commercial, marketing and competition structures means we have excellent leadership to take the sport in a positive future direction.”
Discussing Coward’s switch to temporary chairman, Clark added: “Nic has already made a very positive impact and retaining his expertise for this transition period was an important consideration when the board debated the changes we needed to make.”
UK Sport announced this week it would be conducting an independent review into multiple aspects of UKA’s operations.
Initial work towards the review will be carried out in the next few months by Dame Sue Street, a former member of the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and UK Sport has said the first stage would be completed by April.
Sally Munday, chief executive of national funding and administration body UK Sport, said in announcing the review: "Issues raised in recent months regarding the sport are of major concern to both UK Sport and to the leadership team at UK Athletics.”
The governing body came in for considerable criticism in 2019 over various issues including its handling of concerns raised about the Nike Oregon Project run by the now-disgraced coach Alberto Salazar, including allowing British athletes to continue training there at a time when Salazar was under investigation.
These appointments also coincide with reports that the BBC, the UK’s public-service broadcaster, is unwilling to match the terms of its existing rights deal with UKA, and is seeking to pay a reduced fee for any renewal.
The present deal is worth £3 million ($3.8 million) per year is set to expire this summer, but discussions over an extension have hit a stumbling block with the BBC only prepared to offer "a fraction of what it currently pays" because of a decline in the popularity of the sport, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.