March 20, 2017 / 3:28 AM / 5 months ago

AOC chief Coates faces rare challenge to role

John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), reacts as he announces the findings of a probe into the conduct of Australian swimming team members in the run-up to the 2012 London Games, at a media conference in Sydney August 23, 2013.David Gray/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - John Coates, an IOC vice president and one of the most influential sports administrators in the world, is facing a challenge to his role as Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president for the first time since winning the role in 1990.

Olympic hockey gold medallist Danni Roche launched her surprise bid for one of the top jobs in Australian sport on Monday and is calling for an overhaul of the organisation's leadership.

Roche, who won gold with the Hockeyroos at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was nominated by her sport on Monday to contest the election for a four-year term at the AOC's Annual General Meeting on May 6.

Coates, a former rowing cox, played an integral role in Australia winning the right to host the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and delivering a highly successful Games.

The 66-year-old is also the head of the IOC's coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

He has, though, become embroiled in a public feud with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) head John Wylie since the Rio Olympics and last month accused the head of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Matt Favier, of plotting to depose him.

Roche, who sits on the board of the ASC, said her goal would be to build bridges between the various stakeholders in the Australian sports environment.

"The Australian Olympic Committee needs new leadership," Roche said on Monday.

"It needs make sure that every available resource is directed to sports and athletes. It needs to lead a new culture of collaboration in Australian sport."

'ON THE CHEAP'

Roche said she would reduce the AOC's administrative costs to 30 percent of revenue and shift that funding back towards sports.

The 46-year-old also took aim at the A$700,000 Coates receives each year as a consultancy fee, saying she would work for free.

AOC media chief Mike Tancred told reporters on Monday that his mentor and boss was "probably worth 10 times" the amount he receives.

"John Coates is a world leader in sport, he's highly respected, he brings a lot of corporate dollars through the door," he said.

"If he was a banker, he'd be getting bonuses of 10 times that amount. We're getting John Coates on the cheap."

Tancred added that he thought the feud with Wylie had led to Roche's candidacy, and said Coates had been looking for a successor for a number of years.

"He doesn't want to hand it over to the first Tom, Dick, Harry, Janet or Tracey who comes along," he added.

"This is his baby. He lives it, he eats it. He's not just going to be pushed aside by someone suddenly saying to him, 'Your days are up mate, see you later, go.'"

Sports-mad Australia has traditionally punched above its weight at the Olympics but 10th place on the medals' table in Rio last year continued a decline from fourth in Sydney in 2000 and Athens four years later.

Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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