Ed Warner- Chairman, UK Athletics Share PDF Print E-mail
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Ed Warner1

Ed Warner has been Chairman of UK Athletics since January 2007. He divides his time between work at the governing body and other chairmanships at the likes of investment bank Panmure Gordon and financial trading platform LMAX as well the International Paralympic Committee's Athletics Sport Technical Committee. Before working at the governing body, he worked exclusively in the City namely as CEO of the Old Mutual Financial Services UK and IFX Group plc who he sold in 2006.

By Mary Meyer

You had an extremely successful career in the financial sector before starting at UK Athletics and continue to contribute in that sphere. How has your background in The City assisted you in the world of sport?

When UK Athletics advertised for the chairman role back in autumn 2006 they specifically went looking for someone with organisational experience and business experience because they thought that they needed to bring that to the party. I guess there were a number of former athletes who applied but who didn’t have business experience and I guess there were a number of businessmen who applied who didn’t have any athletics experience and I just happened to be someone from the City who did a bit of running for a club and I sort of got lucky and was able to cover both bases like that.

Do you feel like your success can help silence those who champion the quite outmoded idea in my view that only those who have played the sport professionally can run the game?

Yes, completely. I think that view is so outmoded now. There are a couple of tremendous examples of really successful athletes running businesses in our sport. Brendan Foster is one. Dave Bedford at the London Marathon’s another. They are head and shoulders above anybody else that is operating in our space with their pedigree. Then you look commercially at the wonderful work that Fast Track has done with Alan Pascoe and Jon Ridgeon but it’s a very short list, and I do think you need a blend of skills and experience at the top of these organisations and it’s about bringing together people who have different backgrounds who together make a great team.

One of the tasks you were asked to undertake when hired by UK Athletics in 2007 was to lead the governing body’s London 2012 preparation. Can you explain to our readership what this five-year plan involved.

It’s been, for a chairman, really easy in that there’s been one massive decision to make and then there’s just been a lot of clearing stuff out of the way. The big decision we took immediately after the Beijing Olympics which was to change our Head Coach and, in fact, to hire two Head Coaches – one for the Paralympic programme [Peter Eriksson] and one for the Olympic programme [Charles van Commenee]. That was a process which was led by our Chief Executive but he lent very heavily on me as the chairman. The entire programme or programmes is driven by those two individuals. You get the right individual, you get a great programme. Now the proof of the pudding will be in the eating later this year in how the teams do. However, if you look at the build up over the last three years since they came into post the signs are good.

The preservation of the running track in the Olympic Stadium was a massive step for the sport. What do you see as the ideal vision for the stadium now?

It is a massive step. The two things last year that gave me monumental satisfaction on behalf of our organisation was winning the World Championship bid but we couldn’t have done that without [first] securing the stadium for athletics. All along we have said, provided we’ve got use of the track when we want it, that the facility meets IAAF’s top standards, that it’s big enough so we can host a major championships there in comfort with hospitality facilities, if it’s a venue to be proud of, we’re delighted to share it with anybody because we want to defray the cost for the public purse. I think it does work for a winter sport, whether that’s football or rugby, and it does work for rock concerts; it does work for t20 cricket.

We’ve had great relationships with West Ham throughout this process. If they’re successful in becoming a winter tenant, great. If it’s somebody else, that will be fine too.

Bringing the World Championships to the UK for the first time in 2017 is a massive achievement in maintaining the primacy of athletics within UK sport. Do you think this will mean that sponsors are less likely jump ship post 2012?

I don’t think so necessarily. You’d have to ask sponsor by sponsor. For some, 2012 may just in their minds be an end of a process that they’ve always seen as the culmination of effort to support our sport. For others they’ll look at it and say ‘fantastic, there’s another culmination of effort in five years’ time’ and remembering that there are two World Championships and another Olympics before then.

I think it does make it easier for us in the sponsorship market place because there’s a real story that we can tell about the young athletes that make their first break-through at London 2012. You can associate yourself as a commercial partner with their progress over the next five years. And, one of the great things about a World Championships is that if you are a sponsor of the British athletics team, they’re yours in 2017 and in 2015 and 2013 whereasthe Olympics becomes the BOA (British Olympic Association) show for a few weeks.

 

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