Yesterday, there were some new developments in the story about why Australian National Team Head Coach Alan Thompson was forced into resigning his position.
In the initial repot, Swim Australia chief executive Kevin Neil reported that the decision was made as it was decided that the National Team Coach position and High-Performance Manager position needed to be divided amongst two different people, whereas Thompson had manned both roles since 2006.
Yesterday, Neil released further statements claiming that “it was pretty well viewed that the job was too big for one person to do, and probably neither job was done to its potential as best as possible. It’s a big job.”
Neil said that the new head coach’s role would be about performance, whereas the high-performance manager would include more back-of-the-house roles like “budgetary control and stakeholder relations.”
Swim Australia president David Urquhart emphasized the financial duties of the role of high-performance manager, noting that funding is crucial and that there is only a “certain amount of money in the bucket.”
”In the previous financial year, Leigh Nugent’s youth program received some major cuts and he couldn’t do things … because money was being taken out of the youth program to subsidise some of the blowouts in the high-performance unit for the major teams,” Urquhart said.
The situation is a cyclical catch-22 for Swim Australia, because when funding is cut to the youth program, it endangers the future of the senior program, however the senior program’s success is what earns the money used to fund the youth program. If the youth program suffers, then when those swimmers reach the senior level, funding will drop even more.
Thompson and Neil have long had a contentious relationship, which was caused in no small part by the high-tech suit controversy. Thompson insisted that his swimmers had the top of the line, all-polyurethane suits manufactured by companies like Jaked and Arena. Swim Australia, however, was sponsored by Speedo to the tune of $1 million, who made only a part-polyurethane suit. When it became clear that Australian swimmers would be disadvantaged by staying loyal to Speedo, Thompson began fighting hard for his swimmers’ right to wear whatever suit they wanted.
Thompson repeatedly challenged the Swim Australia board on the issue, and began to lose director support. He was accused by many of meddling in issues that shouldn’t concern him. After Rome, where the issue came to a head, the board decided to conduct a high-performance review to discuss Thompson’s role. It was decided that the two roles would be split off, and both would report directly to Neil. Some viewed this as somewhat of a compromise, as the Australian Sports Commision prefers for the head coach to report directly to the high-performance manager.
It was clear that this was a demotion of sorts for Thompson, and that he was unlikely to accept the reduction in role. Thompson will be free to apply for either role when they become listed publically next week.
Urquhart, a former elite coach, wanted to immediately offer the head coach job to Leigh Nugent, the current head coach of the youth program, but the board overruled him and decided to open the job up to the public. Still, Nugent remained the front-runner for the position if he wanted it.
Former British head coach Bill Sweetenham has been rumored as a candidate for either position, even though he’s been an adviser to Neil for the last year as he transitioned from rugby league to swimming, a sport he was largely unfamiliar with. Sweetenham has denied being interested in the job, but has offered his assistance in the search.
All parties reitterated that the decision had nothing to do with the anonymous allegations made against Thompson stemming from an unknown situation at a swim conference in 2007.