Mike Heath and Tony Shiret from the Athletics Research Group say an EGM later this month could result in clubs losing their power to vote at UKA meetings

Following discussion between us and the UKA Chair, Ian Beattie, and following letters to Mr Beattie and UK Sport’s Chair, UKA has published details of the proposals it plans to make at an Extraordinary General Meeting on January 28. While this is a welcome step forward, we believe it was unlikely to have happened without our intervention.

READ MORE: Statement on UKA Members EGM

Readers can see for themselves that the proposals will reduce their clubs’ influence on decisions that directly affect them and reduce any meaningful oversight over UKA following a period when its Executive Management and Board have clearly failed to improve UKA performance. Under the proposed changes the three current club representatives will have their votes removed and their status reduced to non-voting members. The Home Country Athletics Federations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have half of the voting rights instead of one third previously.

We believe that these changes have been proposed because UK Sport has written to the Chair of UKA requiring changes to the UKA constitution (its Articles) by the end of the month. We also believe that these changes have been linked to funding decisions.

Currently UKA has a new Chair, Ian Beattie, an Acting CEO and a new Senior Independent Director. So, it appears that the UK Sport is trying to force through changes with a new UKA Management Team. Additionally, there has been no public information until today (Jan 21), seven days before the decision, on these proceedings. Fundamental issues concerning the governance of the sport are being decided effectively in secret. The Members of UKA – the 12 people who effectively “own” UKA on behalf of various interests – HCAFs, coaches, clubs, officials etc – are restricted by confidentiality agreements set out in their Code of Conduct from discussing these matters outside UKA meetings. Without our intervention we think it unlikely that there would have been any public discussion before the decisions had been made.

Under existing arrangements, the 12 Members of UKA include elected representatives of the clubs, coaches, officials, road runners as well as the HCAFs and some other appointees. The elected reps can currently block changes to the constitution under UK Company Law. They function as the “conscience of the sport” through their meetings (formerly known as the UK Members’ Council or UKA Members) and review the UKA Board’s actions and in recent times have become effective at doing so – for example identifying that the loss of the UK’s second Diamond League Meeting (and its associated revenue) was not as described in the UKA Accounts and carried out without the UKA Board’s prior agreement.

Clubs may be surprised that control of UKA is effectively being handed to the HCAFs. After a consultation in 2021 the English clubs voted decisively against this option. So, the current proposals appear to be the opposite of what the sport more widely voted for.

The proposed action by UKA and UK Sport follows the Street Review and the resulting Change Plan endorsed by UKA and UK Sport in 2020. To date proposed changes to the ownership and governance of UKA have ignored probably the most important requirement of the Street Review and the Change Plan for a review of the purpose and effectiveness of the UKMC and have largely been driven to produce the result that UK Sport appears to be trying to achieve again. UKA has again declined to carry out that review (despite us specifically asking its Chair to do so) and the statement that “approval will allow us to meet the final outstanding requirement of the UK Athletics Change Plan which followed the Dame Sue Street report” is just not true in our opinion.

Why does this matter to clubs?

  1. Club representatives will not hold voting rights on the revised UK Members effectively being relegated to second-class citizens on that body. It holds clubs powerless to resist changes UKA might wish to make in conjunction with HCAFs for example to raise more revenue directly from the membership.
  2. In a sport that requires the support of huge amount of voluntary time with clubs at its centre, the funding bodies are saying ‘we matter but you don’t’.
  3. Given the whole Plan was supposed to be ushering in a new collaborative culture in athletics, marginalising its stakeholders through a process surrounded until now in secrecy enforced by confidentiality agreements hardly seems the brave new world envisaged.
  4. The idea that clubs are better placed with direct relationships with HCAFs is questionable when UKA controls rules, licensing, welfare, safeguarding, health and safety, competition, coaching and officiating.

We invite you to use your voices to let UK Sport and UKA know that with three major championships on the horizon why does the UK body ostensibly promoting sport seem so keen on diverting the new UKA management team away from delivering the performances that will get athletics back on the front foot in performance and attractiveness and may well help deliver the necessary commercial investment the sport so badly needs? Why cannot both of them just do the necessary options appraisal and consultation envisaged (properly this time, with all options being considered including no change) so that decisions are reached with the openness and transparency promised?

Please let UKA and the members of UKMC know that they have your support in pushing back against UK Sport on this matter.

Time for your input is short and this is your last chance to have meaningful involvement.

UKA can be reached at: [email protected]

UK Sport can be reached at: [email protected]

The UKA website lists the current Members on this link here.

In particular you might like to ask UKA and UK Sport:

  1. Where is the rationale for such changes?
  2. Why has UK Sport been so keen to implement them in the absence of the processes the Plan set out?
  3. What will happen if UKA Members reject any such proposals?
  4. Will anyone see the letter UK Sport has sent to UKA?
  5. How does UK Sport rationalise its “do this or else approach” compared to the required changes in culture that were supposed to be delivered by their review and plan?

READ MORE: Statement on UKA Members EGM

» Michael Heath MBE is a former vice chair of England Athletics and the chair of the British Athletics League and the Athletics Research Group (ARG).

» Tony Shiret is chair of Newham & Essex Beagles and former chair of England National Council.

» The Athletics Research Group (ARG) is comprised of a number of people with extensive knowledge of the domestic sport at all levels. They have decided to form this group as the decisions affecting clubs in the UK have been increasingly subject to disclosure restrictions. It is a private group and claims no mandate. It will, however, as its primary aim attempt to ensure that matters affecting clubs are put within the public domain and properly discussed.