England Athletics Board statement

The Board of Directors of England Athletics is aware that several communications have been circulated to members in recent days by individuals who clearly have strong views about our sport. While we respect the right for members to express themselves and welcome their views on current affairs within our sport, there is simply no place for personal attacks on individuals and for circulating accusatory, offensive, misleading and inaccurate information.

Some of the matters in communications we have seen are unsupported assertions, representing an individual’s opinion. However, others are inaccurate on significant questions of fact and it is therefore appropriate that England Athletics responds to and corrects these so that our members are placed in a suitably informed position:

  • All proxies must be submitted in the form prescribed by the directors in accordance with England Athletics’ Articles of Association. One of the communications we are aware of contains an ‘alternative’ proxy form for the AGM, which has been altered. The author has added in three additional resolutions which are not agenda items scheduled for the AGM and he is advising members, incorrectly, that this form be used. Please be aware that this is not a valid proxy form and, if submitted, will be treated as a spoilt ballot paper and hence may not be counted. Under company law, any member proposing a resolution that is not set out in the Notice of AGM convening the meeting (or is not ordinary business specifically defined and permitted by the Articles to be raised without notice) will be ruled out of order. These additional resolutions do not comply with the required process under company law.
  • Under England Athletics’ Articles of Association, the Board has an express power under Article 24, on a vacancy arising, to re-appoint the Chair and/or Independent Director(s) until the next AGM, provided they are within prescribed term limits (typically, two terms of four years, subject to a maximum of eight years). These appointments have been included on the proxy form for confirmation at the AGM. Accordingly, all accusations of the Board acting outside of England Athletics’ Articles are entirely inaccurate.
  • The current Chair was appointed on 15 October 2016 after an open public application process and the appointment confirmed at the 2016 AGM. Accordingly, accusations that the Chair has nominated herself, supported by the CEO, are wholly inaccurate.
  • It should be noted that the England Athletics Board had, prior to their 26 March Board meeting, consulted with Sport England in February by telephone with regard to compliance with Sport England’s Requirements under the Code of Governance for Sport and England Athletics’ own Articles. This was followed up in writing from Sport England on 6 March.  The Board had, at that time, elected to pursue a process of open recruitment for the upcoming vacancy in the position of Chair; a decision which was revisited following national lockdown arising from Covid-19.
  • The Board (excluding two of its directors due to conflicts of interest on this matter) held a conference call on 24 March 2020 to discuss the situation and, with reference to England Athletics’ Articles (specifically Article 24) and Sport England’s guidance relating to the application of the Code, resolved by unanimous decision to reappoint the current Chair for one additional year, effective from 10 October 2020, being the date of the 2020 AGM when the vacancy would arise (on the expiry of her first four year term of office), prior to the post being openly advertised. The Board considered it appropriate to do so in order to aid continuity through an unprecedented period caused by Covid-19. The Board ratified this decision at its next meeting on 26 March 2020 and also resolved to advertise the vacancy openly in relation to the Chair’s role in 2021, such appointment to be effective from the date of the next following AGM.
  • Although there was no formal necessity to do so until the circulation of the Notice of AGM, the Board considered it appropriate to inform the membership and therefore agreed in June 2020 to communicate this to England Athletics’ members. Prior to issuing this update, confirmation was sought from Sport England.
  • For the avoidance of any doubt arising from recent communications, we can confirm Sport England approved the proposed extension of term by re-appointment for one year as appropriate under the Code of Governance for Sport. Accordingly, any accusations that the Board’s decision is not compliant with the Code and/or that the Board was not happy with the decision are entirely inaccurate.
  • The current Chair has, in the past, been employed by both Birmingham and Loughborough Universities. The Chair had no involvement whatsoever in the selection of one of her past Universities as a pilot talent hub. On the matter of talent hubs generally, we can confirm that there are no firm commitments in place at this stage from England Athletics to further talent hubs and we will continue to review the impact of the two pilots (Birmingham and Leeds) and consult with members to inform the decision.
  • There is absolutely no substance in the accusation that the Chair of England Athletics has made a claim of bullying against the Chair of Sport England and that this was used as leverage for Sport England to agree to the re-appointment of the Chair. The Chair of Sport England has seen the video on which this accusation is made and has issued a letter clearly refuting any such claims. Sport England has confirmed that Sport England’s Chair, Nick Bitel, played no part whatsoever in Sport England’s decision and communication with England Athletics.

England Athletics’ statutory accounts for the financial year ended 31 March 2020 were circulated to all members in the form submitted to Companies House with the Notice of AGM. We are aware that the link in the reminder email sent to members on 1 October 2020 was, for a short time, linked to a designed format of the same accounts which contained some minor errors. The correct link to the statutory accounts in the form submitted to Companies House has been re-established. Members should refer to the statutory accounts sent to them for the purposes of agenda item no.2. Click here to access the Annual Report & Financial Statements document along with all other documentation relating to the 2020 AGM.

Some comments have also been made in relation to the recent Street Review and the working relationships between UKA and Home Countries. UKA are leading on the implementation of the recommendations of this review and we are working closely with them on this. We understand that they will be issuing an update communication shortly and we will support the dissemination of this to members.

We trust that this clarifies matters for our members. We encourage all members to complete and submit their proxies in the prescribed form by 11.00am on Thursday 8th October 2020.

Update (since date of publication of above statement): the England Athletics 2020 AGM took place as planned on Saturday 10 October.  All motions were passed and the result of the Member-Elected Director election was confirmed - click here for details including voting results. We can confirm that we received only one alternative proxy from a member. This would have been rejected but, following further guidance from England Athletics issued to all members, this was later superseded by a valid proxy from the same member in the prescribed form before the deadline. No other forms were rejected and all valid proxy votes were counted.