UK Athletics (UKA) has appointed Jack Buckner, the current head of the British Swimming national governing body, as its new chief executive as the beleaguered national body looks to usher in a new era.
Buckner, a former track athlete for Great Britain, will leave his current role at British Swimming later this year to take up the role.
He will be tasked with leading the sport after a tumultuous period in UKA, which has been hit by a series of scandals, executive infighting, and a damning independent review.
He replaces interim chief executive Mark Munro, who had been put in place after Joanna Coates’ sudden resignation last October. Munro will remain as the governing body’s new chief operating officer.
Buckner said: “Athletics has been a huge part of my life since I was a teenager, and I can’t wait to be trackside later in the year.
“Taking on the chief executive role will be an exciting challenge and one I feel privileged to have been offered. I am looking forward to getting started.”
As chief executive of British Swimming, Buckner oversaw a successful Team GB performance at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with the Olympic team claiming a best-ever haul of eight medals, including four golds, and the Paralympic team the most successful for ParalympicsGB, with 26 medals.
In contrast, the athletics team left the games without a single gold for the first time since 1996 and had their tally of six medals reduced to five after the men’s 4x100m relay team was stripped of silver following CJ Ujah’s doping violation.
The chief executive position at UKA has been beset with issues since long-time chief executive Niels de Vos left UKA in late 2018.
The role was initially offered to Zara Hyde Peters, the former head of British Triathlon, in late 2019, but she did not take up the position due to controversy surrounding a safeguarding case involving her husband.
Nic Coward then stepped into the role on an interim basis before Coates, formerly of England Netball, took up the role.
However, her reign was plagued by turmoil and infighting, culminating in her resignation 19 months later following a fiery board meeting. At the time, athletes had expressed a lack of confidence in the UKA performance team, led by Coates.
During this period of instability, UKA has been the subject of an independent review by UK Sport that found a ‘general culture of mistrust’ and ordered it to reform its board, while UK Anti-Doping also criticized the body for its reluctance to hand over a 2015 independent report into its relationship with banned coach Alberto Salazar.
UKA came under further scrutiny in 2018 for losing nearly £2 million ($2.6 million) when staging the Athletics World Cup on the weekend of the soccer world cup finals and Wimbledon singles finals.
The body was also on the verge of losing its broadcast deal with the BBC until a deal was struck in January 2021.
The board will look to Buckner to steady the ship as it prepares for three major athletics championships this summer.
Ian Beattie, UK Athletics chair, said: “We were impressed with the range and quality of applicants for the role at this exciting time for athletics, but Jack was the standout candidate with his feel for the sport and knowledge as an athlete.
“Both the Board and I look forward to working with Jack, starting with this very busy and exciting summer and looking ahead to the fast-approaching Paris Olympics and Paralympics.”