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SBD Global/February 11, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Jessica Ennis' Coach Cuts Ties With UK Athletics, Slams Organization

Jessica Ennis, right, listens to coach Toni Minichiello at the London Games.
Team GB Gold Medalist JESSICA ENNIS' coach TONI MINICHIELLO has "cut all ties" with UK Athletics, claiming he felt "bullied" and "not respected," according to Martha Kelner of the London GUARDIAN. Minichiello also alleged that CEO NIELS DE VOS had "not even congratulated him" after Ennis won a Gold Medal in the heptathlon last summer. Minichiello "had been offered a consultancy role" within UK Athletics after his old job came to an end last month. However, Minichiello, who has coached Ennis since she was 12, has "turned down the role" after relations between him and De Vos and head coach PETER ERIKSSON "soured." Minichiello will "continue to coach Ennis" as she targets the World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Minichiello said, "Pay me or don’t pay me, I am still going to coach Jess" (DAILY MAIL, 2/9). In London, Rick Broadbent wrote Ennis "backed her coach" and said she would "definitely" continue to work with Minichiello despite his "acrimonious divorce" from UK Athletics (LONDON TIMES, 2/11).

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT: In London, Anna Kessel reported Minichiello, who has been told to "take it or leave it" by Eriksson, said that he has "decided to walk away from the governing body's offer." Minichiello said, "I reflected on it and thought, well, if that's how I'm valued it probably does make sense to leave it. My door's open if they want to come back and renegotiate. It's an open door and it's always going to be that way." Minichiello has "a reputation for speaking his mind." He said he was aware Eriksson had accused him of airing his "dirty laundry" in public, but that he would not be intimidated by a "bullying culture" that he alleges was cultivated under former head coach CHARLES VAN COMMENEE.  Minichiello: "I think they've picked the wrong fat kid to bully. I'm not for bullying" (GUARDIAN, 2/9). Also in London, in a separate piece, Kessel reported Eriksson "denied that there was any bullying element at play." Eriksson: "I can't relate to it, that's all I can say about it. It's not happening as long as I've been there. I don't know about the past." Eriksson said that he "will be seeking to reassure Ennis of UKA's support." He said, "We did that the first time we met. We said that we would continue supporting her and we would do everything we can for her to perform at the next level. When I see her next time we will be just reconfirming that" (GUARDIAN, 2/10).

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The SUNDAY TIMES reported Minichiello admits he has no "divine right" to be employed by UK Athletics, acknowledging that "changes are being made with coaching being centred around a single High Performance Centre in Loughborough." However, he is afraid that his time coaching the heptathlete will "suffer as a result of the need to find other work." Minichiello said, "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" (SUNDAY TIMES, 2/10).
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