Athletics: Frank Dick tells athletes to stay home
By Mark Woods
14th November 2010
Scottish Athletics chairman Frank Dick has launched a scathing attack on the policy of the sport's UK governing body to centralise the bulk of their resources at two primary bases in Leicestershire and north London.
He claims it has left coaches disillusioned as they face the prospect of losing their best young talents as soon as they mature into genuine achievers.
Dick, who was in charge of Great Britain's squad at four Olympic Games, is prepared to pick a f
ADVERTISEMENTight with UK Athletics by urging Scotland's best to remain at home. "I'd like us to get away from the notion that people have to leave Scotland to improve," he declared. "It's demotivating for the whole population. It's got to stop."
The high-performance centres at Loughborough and Lee Valley are now the focus of UKA's coaching and sports science programmes, as well as providing indoor and outdoor training facilities.
Upscaled at the expense of a bank of regional centres around the country, they are now the base for around 85 per cent of the athletes who are on the two upper tiers of funding as the sport attempts to emulate the successful model of cycling.
Yet, Dick warns, the beast might consume itself. "This is a serious stone in my shoe and it should be a serous stone in Scotland's shoe. It is very hard to grow strength in coaching if you haemorrhage athletes the moment they look to be ready to go to a higher level.
"It stops the growth. It demotivates the coaches left behind. Why would you want to belong to a system where you have an opportunity to take an athlete the whole way through - but where the athlete is invited to go somewhere else at some point? It might make short-term sense to have someone who is tightly focused on one objective like 2012. But it's not in the long-term interest."
Many would argue that Scotland has too long been negligent in failing to offer attractive alternatives. Belatedly, Scotstoun in Glasgow is being upgraded into a centre of excellence.
Olympian Lee McConnell, who went to Loughborough before returning to Glasgow, said upgrading facilities back home is long overdue. "The facilities aren't as good here but I enjoy living in Scotland," she said. "I'm happier here and that's important from a mental standpoint to produce good performances."