Ian Beattie appointed new chair of UK Athletics...


ianb.jpgIan Beattie, new chair of UK Athletics, photo by UK Athletics

The announcement came in the past week. Ian Beattie is the new chair of UK Athletics. With British Athletics in a difficult period, many will look to Ian Beattie, formerly head of Scottish Athletics, to solve those problems.

Stuart Weir gives us some thoughts on the new chair of UK Athletics.

Ian Beattie

UK Athletics has appointed a new chair and it looks good news! Ian Beattie is a former Chair of Scottish Athletics and Vice Chair of Sport Scotland. A member and endurance coach of Harmeny Athletic Club, Ian has previously been a member of Portobello, Strathearn Harriers, Central AC and Troon Tortoises, serving on the committee of most of those clubs. He is race director of the West Highland Way Race, having completed the event eight times, and has completed more than 100 marathons and 100 half marathons. He is also a Chartered Accountant and Chief Operating Officer of Lindsays Law firm in Edinburgh.

Ian-Beattie-in-red-vest-of-Harmeny-AC-XC-by-Bobby-Gavin.jpgIan Beattie (Orange vest), photo by Bobby Gavin

Before considering the new appointment, let me remind you of the background. Ed Warner was chair 2007 to 2017 and highly regarded. Since then Richard Bowker, Chris Clark and Nic Coward (interim) have served as chair and come and gone. In February 2020 Joanna Coates was appointed CEO. For a fuller account of the history of comings and goings see


Shortly after her appointment, Jo Coates explained to me how the governance of the organization would work: "I think a board is there to help set strategy, with the executive, and then to guide the organization through that strategic direction, to assist and bring the skill set to the organization. People sometimes use words like 'check and challenge' which is what the board should do. The chair is my boss and I am accountable to the chair, whose role is to chair the board and support the CEO, to be a good support and sounding board to the CEO. Not to get involved in executive decisions. That's where I see the difference between operationally delivering and strategically guiding".

The UKA press release quoted the new chair as saying: "I am delighted to have been appointed to the chair position at UK Athletics. It is an exciting time to be taking on the role, and I look forward to helping the organisation provide a positive environment for athletes, coaches, officials and everyone else involved in the sport. Having previously chaired one of the Home Country Athletics Federations, I recognise the importance of all the athletics' bodies in the UK working together, with each of us performing our roles to the highest possible standard. My vision is for athletics to be a sport where everyone pulls in the same direction and feels proud to be part of the athletics family in the UK. It is encouraging that the structures are now in place to allow that to happen, and I look forward to helping UKA play its part in achieving this in the years ahead". The press release added: "Ian's deep athletics knowledge and his passion and energy for the role, combined with his chair and business experience will be a fantastic asset for us".

The phrase "deep athletics knowledge" will resonate with many people in the sport. The current CEO, Jo Coates, (previous CEO of England Netball) was very much an outsider to the sport when appointed. I asked her at the time of her appointment if that was a problem. She replied: "I think it's a huge strength. I had never played netball and they never got me on a netball court! And I still don't play netball. But I was able to go in there with a fresh pair of eyes, make quite tough decisions because you don't have the emotional connection. You can look at it more as a business and ask: 'where do I need to make change?' I want to take all the learnings that I've had from sport over the years and apply it to athletics". Coates' first appointment was Sara Symington as Performance Director who had previously worked in Netball, Archery and Triathlon. Ex-chairs, Richard Bowker had been a Football Board member and Nic Coward chair of English golf.

Those in the sport who do not agree with Jo Coates' view that not being from the athletics family is an advantage will be delighted that "one of our own" has been appointed. Beattie's experience as chair of Scottish Athletics during a period which has seen several elite Scottish athletes emerge will be seen as particularly relevant. It looks an excellent appointment.

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