Toni Minichiello, the coach who guided Jessica Ennis to Olympic gold, has accused British Athletics chiefs of a "lack of respect" after he was offered a reduced package – on a consultancy basis – to continue working with one of the world's most successful athletes.
Minichiello, who has been told to "take it or leave it" by the UK Athletics head coach, Peter Eriksson, says he has decided to walk away from the governing body's offer. "I reflected on it and thought, well, if that's how I'm valued it probably does make sense to leave it," Minichiello said. "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."
The 2012 Coach of the Year, who was invited to give a speech to the England rugby team before their Six Nations campaign, insists the issue is not about money but principle. "Fundamentally, the money doesn't matter. For me, it's not about the money and never has been about the money, it's about how you operate and what value you bring to the sport."
Minichiello is upset at his treatment, which, he says, has been unfavourable compared with other BA coaches. "It's not on parity with Malcolm Arnold [hurdles] and it's not on parity with Terrence Mahon [endurance] or Rana Reider [sprints]. There isn't any respect or recognition."
While those coaches have been offered full-time, lottery-funded positions, Minichiello has been penalised by a new governance structure that emphasises either working out of a centralised hub in Loughborough or coaching at least two world-class funded athletes to qualify for a job. "It's a dog-eat-dog culture," said Minichiello, who is unwilling to force Ennis to relocate from her native Sheffield to comply with the new system. "Unless you've two people on the programme you're not valuable. If you've only one person on the programme – regardless of the fact it's Jessica Ennis – you don't have value."
The only British coach to win athletics gold at the London Games feels that the governing body has not valued his contributions to the sport, despite a medal haul that includes world indoor and outdoor gold and silver medals for Ennis. "There were three or four people I didn't get a text from after Jess won the Olympics. One was Niels de Vos [the chief executive] and one was Ed Warner [the chairman], so if you look it at it, the writing was pretty much on the wall there and then in terms of their level of respect for what I'd done as a coach."
Minichiello, who has a reputation for speaking his mind, said he was aware that Eriksson had accused him of airing his "dirty laundry" in public but that he would not be cowed by a "bullying culture" that he alleges was cultivated under the former head coach, Charles van Commenee. "I think they've picked the wrong fat kid to bully," he said. "I'm not for bullying."
Minichiello faces a struggle to find income from elsewhere, with a question over whether Ennis may contribute to his earnings.
"The only downside is finding something that will still allow me to coach Jessica 9 to 5, six days a week. However, you make these things work. You have to. We did it before, we'll do it again."
A statement from British Athletics said: "We made Toni Minichiello a good offer to continue working with us. He has decided he would prefer to coach independently. We have no issue with that and respect his decision. His track record working with Jessica is superb and if he feels his decision is the best way to maintain their success then we respect that. We will continue to support Jess and Toni 100% with all their training, medical and support services."
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