Top Bath University-based coaches axed by British Athletics

THE future of top class athletics in Bath has been dealt another severe blow with news that leading British coaches Malcolm Arnold and James Hillier have been made redundant by British Athletics.

The announcement was ushered through unannounced on the eve of Christmas with Hillier (picture left with athletes Leon Reid and David King) working his last day as High Performance Athletics Coach and co-manager of the British Athletics Performance Centre, based at Bath University last week.

The loss of the pair, who have coached numerous Olympians and world class athletes between them with Arnold regarded as one of the leading hurdles coaches in the world, comes just a month after Bathampton’s Dan Cossins, who was rated one of the brightest sprint coaches in the country, announced he was quitting the sport after becoming disillusioned.

“The news has come as a bit of a shock,” said Hillier.

“We both though that after our athletes won two medals at the Olympics in Rio (Emily Diamond pictured below and Eilidh Child in the women’s 4x400m relay) that would at least take us through to the World Championships in London next year.

“But British athletics have decided not to carry on with supporting the centre at Bath University so both Malcolm and I have been made redundant.

“As to why they have made that decision we have not heard anything to be honest and we have not received a reason, financial or otherwise.

“But it sees now that in the future everything will be based at Loughborough University so maybe it is just a case of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time but it is very disappointing.”

The UKA Regional Centre at Bath was the first established in 1999 under Arnold’s leadership. Since close to fifty major medals have been won by athletes trained at Bath – including the famous sprint relay gold by Bath Bullet Jason Gardener in 2004.

In January 2013 Arnold was appointed to the role of Lead Hurdles Coach based at Bath University with Hillier as Assistant Coach but without the financial support from British Athletics the whole set-up looks set to be disbanded.

As the year ends that included sprint hurdler David King, Bath-based sprinters Leon King and Theo Campbell plus the work he does in assisting Bristol & West AC’s Diamond, who lives in Frome, as her main coach (Jarred Deacon) is based in Edinburgh.

“I certainly don’t want to leave the group as there are some great athletes who have yet to fulfil their potential and are still improving,” added Hillier.

“Additionally I don’t want to stop coaching as I feel I am only just starting to get to my peak. But I need to pay the bills so I have to find some work somewhere and at the moment I have no idea what I will do.”

Hillier stressed that Stephen Baddeley, who is Director of Sport at Bath University, has been very supportive and has been proactive in trying to find a solution which would enable Hillier to keep on coaching the leading athletes at the university though I understand Arnold may now retire after a lifetime of service.

“Stephen recognises the importance of what we have been doing and has always been 100 per cent the (British Athletics) programme,” said Hillier.

“If we could find some commercial sponsorship or other eternal funding that would be great. But whatever happens the last seven years at the university has been an amazing experience and I can take great pride in helping so any athletes reach international standard and represent their country.

“I have to accept the decision of British Athletics, be positive about the future and try and find the best solution for my athletes.

“It would be a crying shame if we could not keep that group going but it is going to be very difficult without funding.”


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