Former Coventry Godiva chairman seeking “root and branch” review of UKA

Zara Hyde Peters has been called on to apologise over the controversy which has resulted in her not taking up the position of UK Athletics chief executive.

The former endurance athlete had been due to start work with the governing body on December 1 but, following claims she allowed her husband Mike Peters to continue to coach at Coventry Godiva Harriers following his ban from teaching due to an “inappropriate relationship” with a 15-year-old girl, Hyde Peters’ second spell at UKA ended on Monday before it had even begun.

Multiple reports by The Times newspaper alleged that Peters managed and coached a team with Coventry Godiva Harriers, which included athletes under the age of 18, following his teaching ban and that he did so without the relevant disclosure checks or coaching licence.

At the time Hyde Peters was a coaching co-ordinator and then vice-chair at the club but reportedly did not raise any safeguarding issues.

An emergency UKA Board meeting was convened on Sunday, at which it was decided Hyde Peters’ position was untenable.

“I have agreed with the Board of UK Athletics that for the good of the sport I will not take up the role of CEO in light of recent media reporting,” said Hyde Peters, who worked with UKA from 2000-2008. “This has been one of the most painful experiences I have ever had to face.

“‘Trial by media’ is almost impossible to deal with and is not a process that properly protects the rights of those caught up in it. I have been a life long participant in, and contributor to, the sport of athletics.

“I have always respected the interests of the sport and my fellow competitors, the officials, and all the many volunteers involved; these are the most important things to me.”

However Martin Slevin, the former Coventry Godiva chair and police detective chief inspector who brought the claims against the Peters’ to light, said: “My view is that she is clearly not accepting that any action she took was inappropriate.”

Asked if Hyde Peters needed to make an apology, Slevins added: “Absolutely she does. I tried in vain to deal with this matter appropriately through the Coventry Godiva committee in 2016 and when they took no action I again endeavoured to deal with the matter in April and May of 2017 when I became aware that Mike Peters was still officiating at the club in terms of the Midlands track and field league where any scrutiny would have shown 15 and 16-year-old girls were in that team and I wasn’t prepared at that point to let it be swept under the carpet.”

Coventry Godiva have been approached for comment, but in a statement posted to the club’s website, the committee said: “Following recent news in the press regarding current and former members, the Club assures all members that welfare and safeguarding matters are taken very seriously to ensure there is a safe environment for all. The Club follows UKA Guidance on Codes of Conduct for athletes and volunteers, and DBS checks for all volunteers with a UKA qualification.

“Earlier this year the Club started a consultation with members as it approaches its 150th anniversary. Alongside this we will reflect how the Club and UKA dealt with past issues, and ensure that current welfare and safeguarding procedures reflect best practice going forward. If members or their families have any concerns they should speak with the Club Welfare Officer – Job King, and for all serious matters raise directly with UKA Welfare or the Police.”

Slevin also believes an independent “root and branch” review of UKA is now required.

“When you look at all the issues they’ve faced – in terms of poor financial management over the World Cup, the VAT bill for £500,000, the Nike Oregon project issue and now this – how can anyone in our sport have confidence going forward unless there is a root and branch review of the processes and leadership currently at UK Athletics?

“It’s important for the sport going forward that these things are now out in the open and that there is a full and independent review. (UKA chair) Chris Clark now has a mountain to climb and his comments coming out in support of Zara Hyde Peters were ill-judged. I think he’s got a long way to go now to really establish his credibility in the sport. Whether he manages to do that, only time will tell.

“The sport is in a crisis and is at a crossroads where strong and impartial leadership is called for.”

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