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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Dallas O'Brien quits from Athletics Australia

Dallas O'Brien quits from Athletics Australia

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Athletics Australia CEO Dallas O'Brien quits

By Michael Gleeson
The Age
24 October 2014

Athletics Australia's year of turmoil off the track has continued with the departure of chief executive Dallas O'Brien as two reviews into the sport are carried out in the wake of the Eric Hollingsworth fiasco at the Commonwealth Games.

AA will now be searching for a new chief executive as well as a new head coach after O'Brien resigned on Friday with two years remaining on his contract. It is understood he was asked to resign after losing the support of the board and the sport's stakeholders.

The Hollingsworth fiasco in Glasgow damaged O'Brien. He oversaw a toxic environment in which the head coach fell out with athletes to the point where he had to be sent home . Hollingsworth was eventually forced to resign after issuing a media release during the Commonwealth Games tocriticise team captain Sally Pearson on the eve of her competition.

AA also remains without a major sponsor, which was another factor that damaged O'Brien, who became the chief executive in June 2010, replacing Danny Corcoran.

AA is conducting its own review into what went wrong in Glasgow and the Australian Sports Commission is undertaking a second review of the sport headed by former cricket coach John Buchanan, which is looking at the sport's structure, culture and performance.

AA president David Grace denied the sport was in disarray, saying that, on the contrary, the loss of the CEO and the head coach reflected a strength of leadership – having the courage to make hard decisions and address festering issues.

"These are positive steps and indicative of strong leadership and it puts the interest of the athletes and the sport at the forefront of our decision making," Grace said. "We are ensuring we confront any issues and do not sweep them under the carpet."

O'Brien, a former athlete who won the Stawell Gift and had been a fitness coach for a year at the St Kilda AFL club, had been a director at global sports management company IMG for 19 years before accepting the job at AA.

"I have truly enjoyed my time at Athletics Australia," O'Brien said. "However, the time is right for me to move on to new challenges."

Grace said the current chief operating officer, Rob Ewart, would act as interim chief executive until a replacement could be found. Grace hoped to appoint a new chief executive before the domestic athletics season begins at the end of January next year.

AA will also advertise within a week for a replacement for Hollingsworth as head coach after the board agreed with an interim finding of both reviews that it was best to retain the current structure and replace Hollingsworth rather than to restructure the high-performance department.

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