sport

Ennis coach wants respect

The coach of Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis insists a lack of respect, not money, has led to him severing ties with UK Athletics.

Toni Minichiello had been in talks with UKA over a new role after his contract as an Olympic coach come to an end earlier this year.

However, protracted negotiations failed to produce an agreement and Minichiello, who was named coach of the year in November last year, will have to find other sources of income as he continues to coach Ennis, who is focused on regaining her title at the World Championships in Moscow in August.

UKA head coach Peter Eriksson said on Friday that Minichiello was offered a better salary than in his previous role but turned it down, and although Minichiello disputes that, he stressed money was not the main issue.

"That's Peter's reflection on it," said Minichiello.

"Peter probably needs to come and have a conversation with me if he wants to discuss numbers.

"It's a little bit misleading, the figures were actually less than the package I was on before when you take the whole package.

"It's less than they are paying Terrence Mahon (endurance coach) and Rana Reider (sprints, horizontal jumps and relays); I understand it's less than the minimums that have been offered to people like Malcolm Arnold.

"People will gild things in the way they want to. To me it's not about money, ultimately it's about respect, it's about recognition of what I've done.

"Working with people in winter sports winning world championship medals, working with people in summer sports from the age of 11 or 12 (Ennis) through to Olympic champion, I think that's pretty unique.

"From my perspective there has never been any recognition of that, never been a great deal of support for what we're trying to do."

Minichiello admits he has no "divine right" to be employed by UKA, acknowledging that changes are being made with coaching being centred around a single High Performance Centre in Loughborough.

But he fears that his time coaching Ennis will suffer as a result of the need to find other work.

"The sport has gone in a different direction, at this moment in time they don't think I have anything to offer, so be it," he added.

"I'll go and do some consultancy work and ply my trade where I can and find ways of moving forward.

"The only downside of that is that it takes away from the six days a week you have to do in terms of coaching. I think there is an assumption that the amount of time you spend with Jess is very small, but it's kind of huge when you are trying to deal with seven events.

"I was coaching Jess before 2006 when Dave Collins (former UKA performance director) employed me and I will continue to do that.

"The sport receives money from the Lottery, there is a finite budget to it, they are going in a particular direction and there are decisions for them to make because they have to look at the sport as a whole from top to bottom. I coach a group of 13 people.

"Lottery money and coaching someone who is successful doesn't give you a divine right to be employed by a governing body. I would expect the sport to be supportive of Jess and success, I wouldn't expect there to be any change to that."

UKA chief executive Niels de Vos had earlier insisted that would be the case, saying: "The important thing from our point of view is that we will continue to work very closely with Jessica, as we always have. That's the role for the governing body, to support the athlete to win medals and we will carry on doing that.

"We were quite keen that he (Minichiello) should be a fully-paid coached by the governing body and he has chosen that he wants to do it a different way and that's fine. It's not actually that abnormal, Alberto Salazar (Mo Farah's coach) is like that; there are different ways of getting to the same destination.

"I don't think it's a falling out or an issue of money. I think he decided he wants to go and do it as an independent.

"Plenty of people have done that before, Peter Coe (Seb Coe's coach and father) would be another example, Gary Lough (Paula Radcliffe's husband and coach) does it, and it can be extremely successful and I am sure it will continue to be successful for Toni and Jessica."

UKA later released a statement which read: "We made Toni Minichiello a good offer to continue working with us but he has decided he would prefer to coach independently.

"We have no issue with that and absolutely respect his decision. His track record working with Jessica is superb and if he feels his decision is the best way to maintain their success then we respect that.

"We will of course, continue to support Jess and Tony 100% with all their training, medical and support services."