Athletics Australia’s crisis with head coach Eric Hollingsworth has deepened following the Commonwealth Games team’s decision not to kick him off the Glasgow 2014 team.
Hollingsworth was banned by AA yesterday after making what the sport’s governing body believed was disparaging comments about star hurdler Sally Pearson. The pair are embroiled in a feud and have not spoken since the world indoor championships in March.
But what infuriated AA officials was Hollingsworth statement, released via a private relations company, about Pearson on the eve of her defence of the Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles title at Hampden Park.
While AA have forced Hollingsworth out of his position pending an inquiry, the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, which has ultimate control of the team in Glasgow, has not revoked Hollingsworth accreditation.
Hollingsworth was sitting in the Hampden Park grandstand last night and was still free to have contact with any athlete in the Games village, undermining AA’s stance.
Australian chef de mission Steve Moneghetti stated “helping athletes produce their best performances” remained his priority.
“We have athletes in action tonight at various venues around Glasgow and it is my role to ensure that those athletes are given every opportunity to perform at their absolute best,” Moneghetti said.
“Coaches play an intricate part in that process and the Australian Commonwealth Games team is all about supporting our athletes’ preparation and performance.”
It is believed the ACGA could face legal action should they put recommend Hollingsworth be stripped of his accreditation.
AA president David Grace QC said Hollingsworth’s position will be decided at a full board meeting in Australia at the conclusion of the Games.
However, Hollingsworth’s contract was to expire in October.
“My understanding is the Commonwealth Games association has yet to determine their position and I cannot comment,” Grace said. “It is their team and they have the prerogative to do what they wish with their team members.
“We have left it to the Commonwealth Games association to determine the best course in their opinion for their team.
“The question of Eric Hollingsworth remaining as a member of the team is not an issue I can discuss. It is an issue Athletics Australia has the right to determine.
“All I can say is we were deeply shocked, we were very upset with his decision to go public with his comments. They were unexpected. We had discussed his complaints with him. We had directed him not to comment to the media and we would discuss his complaints at a later team once he Games had concluded.”
“We don’t need these distractions, the athletes don’t need these distractions and it is very unfortunate that it has happened.”
In his statement Hollingsworth criticised Pearson for not attending the athletics team’s pre-Games camp in Gateshead.
Pearson was fined for her absence, a move that upset the Olympic and world champion. However, she vowed on the eve of the Games to not discuss the issue until after she had raced. She competes in the 100m hurdles on Friday.
“Sally was coming all along until the last minute when she opted to take a race in London,” said Hollingsworth said in his statement.
“What's lost here is she's the team captain and there's a reasonable expectation she'd be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games. Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team.”