Stephen Maguire has left his post as technical director at UK Athletics with immediate effect. The terse statement from his former employers said: “UK Athletics have announced that Stephen Maguire will leave his role as Technical Director with immediate effect. An interim Head Coach will be announced in due course; until then, no further comment will be made”.
This follows the news that the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix – the final of the Indoor Series – scheduled for 24 February 2024 will not take place. There has been no announcement to that effect but it is no longer included in the World Athletics schedule of the Indoor Series. Having lost money on the magnificent 2023 London Diamond League, watched by a sellout 50,000 crowd last summer, one may speculate that the reason for the cancellation is financial. The financial challenges facing UK athletics are well known.
Maguire was in charge of sprints, hurdles, and relays at UKA for six years, and was director of performance and coaching of Scottish athletics for 2 ½ years. He was the leading candidate for the post of head coach at UK Athletics in 2020. The then CEO, Jo Coates, appointed Christian Malcolm. That appointment was not a success. Maguire was head of high-performance coaching for sport Ireland – covering all sports – for 2 and a bit years before being appointed technical director at UKA just over a year ago.
JULY 26: Stephen Maguire of the Head of British Athletics Sprints and Power team poses for a portrait during the British Athletics Team World Championships Preparation Camp July 26, 2017. The IAAF World Championships in Athletics start on Friday 4th August 2017 in London (Photo by Matt Lewis – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)
In this year’s world championship Britain secured 10 medals – way above expectation – due in no small measure to the improvements in the coaching and management structure of elite track and field which Maguire had put in place during his short time in post. For Maguire to leave 10 months before the Paris Olympics seems disastrous.
While no explanation has been given, RunBlogRun understands that a key reason is a disagreement between the CEO, Jack Buckner, and Maguire. Most athletics fans would feel that Buckner should have done whatever it took to keep Maguire in post. He is highly respected and popular among coaches and athletes. UKA now finds itself with no one in charge 10 months before the Olympics!
Dina Asher-Smith was one of the first athletes to comment, asking for a “full explanation” for the “disappointing decision”. Dina continued in a post on Instagram: “Stephen has been phenomenal, so dedicated and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to be successful in the sport of track and field. Such a snap decision as athletes begin to prepare for an Olympic Games cannot have been done with any consideration for the performance needs of the athletes.
Dina Asher-Smith, photo by European Athletics
“As an athlete, it would be nice to have this explained to us, as much as any confidentiality clauses allow of course, because from the outside looking in it seems like an incredibly short-sighted decision made without considering that we are in an Olympic year.”
Those are strong words, but many will echo her sentiments. Eilish McColgan: “No explanation is a bit of a rogue move…”.
The happy warrior, Eilish McColgan, 10,000m, photo by Scottish Athletics
Yet again, there are more questions than answers.