Bill Furniss is today confirmed as Britain head coach, to work alongside Chris Spice (Rugby, Hockey and basketball) as performance director in the wake of a London 2012 review that favoured a Made in Britain future for a team set to wave goodbye to Rebecca Adlington tomorrow.
Spice, 53, is Australian - a hockey international who coached players to Olympic gold Down Under - but his management career was shaped in Britain (via the US), one of the highlights of his time in sport his experience as performance director for England RFU when England lifted the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2003.
In-brief career highlights of Britain's new leadership pair:
Mentor to double Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion Rebecca Adlington, Furniss has beenSwimming Performance Director for Nottinghamshire County Swim Squad and Nova Centurion since 1980. He has served as a regular member of the GB coaching staff for the last 25 years on both senior and junior international competitions and training camps. He was Head Coach for the 1996 Olympic Games swimming team, the 1994 England Team and the 1995 European Championships. Furniss coached Adlington to double gold in Beijing over 400m and 800m freestyle and bronze in both those events four years on at London 2012. Adlington is the most decorated Olympic swimmer from Britain in modern history and in beijing became the first to win more than one solo-event gold since Henry Taylor won three titles, one a relay, at London in 1908.
A former international hockey player and Olympic gold medal winning coach with Australia and was appointed performance director of Great Britain and English Hockey in 1997. In 2001 he was appointed performance director for England RFU and was in this role when England lifted the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2003. Chris was a high performance consultant in the United States and the UK before accepting the job as Performance Director for British Basketball in 2007.
Commenting on his appointment, Spice said: “One of the key things that attracted me to the position is the great potential I see within swimming and based on the solid foundation in place already I believe we can build for an exciting future. I’m delighted to be working with Bill. He has an incredible pedigree and I’m certain this partnership will provide the perfect match of strategic leadership and technical knowledge. I feel it’s a team that can take swimming to a new level and achieve fantastic things.”
Furniss said: "I’m looking forward to working with Chris and what I know to be both world class coaches and world class athletes as we strive to deliver the podium results in Rio 2016. In Britain we have some of the best coaches and most talented swimmers in the world and my role will be to work with them and their programmes to achieve the small margins required to convert finalists into medallists. Chris and I have already met and shared our beliefs and views about what is required to move swimming forward. He has an excellent background in sport at the highest level and together we know where collectively we can make a difference."
News on Spice's move was received with mixed feelings in the basketball community he leaves behind, one specialist site stating that the Australian "leaves GB [basketball] amidst increasing criticism from the British basketball community having left no tangible legacy from £8.5m in funding over the 2012 Cycle …"
British Basketball still has their funding amount for the 2016 Olympic cycle to be decided after successfully appealing a decision to cut it to zero, while British Swimming is to receive more than £25m pounds over the next four years (£21.3 for swimming, £4.3 for synchronised swimming). Those sums reflect the level of success for the respective sports at London 2012.
“This is a big opportunity for me and my experience working with basketball for the last six years has given me valuable insight into the organisation and structure required to improve sporting performance,” said Spice in a statement released by British Basketball. “I hope I can make a difference to British Swimming.”
The following statement has been issued by British Swimming:
British Swimming has unveiled a new strategic and technical leadership team tasked with driving the sport forward to the Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
Strategic direction will be set by National Performance Director Chris Spice, a former performance director for England RFU, Great Britain and England Hockey and more recently British Basketball, while the technical lead will be Head Coach Bill Furniss, the coach behind Rebecca Adlington - Britain’s most successful swimmer in Olympic history.
Spice will provide overall strategic leadership to the World Class Swimming Programme, inclusive of the performance structures and systems, to ensure it achieves maximum medal potential for the current Olympic cycle and beyond.
Furniss will use his vast elite coaching experience to provide technical leadership and performance standards to coaches, the home countries and the wider coaching community. This will include the development and implementation of training, competition and integrated individual athlete performance plans.
Both appointments, which begin in April, will establish and drive a no compromise culture of best practice and continuous improvement by constructively challenging coaches, athletes and staff to achieve the highest performance outcomes.
Commenting on his appointment, Spice said: “One of the key things that attracted me to the position is the great potential I see within swimming and based on the solid foundation in place already I believe we can build for an exciting future.
“I’m delighted to be working with Bill. He has an incredible pedigree and I’m certain this partnership will provide the perfect match of strategic leadership and technical knowledge. I feel it’s a team that can take swimming to a new level and achieve fantastic things.”
An immediate priority for Furniss will be to utilise the ability and professionalism of Britain’s coaches and athletes to bring together a truly world class team.
“I’m looking forward to working with Chris and what I know to be both world class coaches and world class athletes as we strive to deliver the podium results in Rio 2016.
“In Britain we have some of the best coaches and most talented swimmers in the world and my role will be to work with them and their programmes to achieve the small margins required to convert finalists into medallists.
“Chris and I have already met and shared our beliefs and views about what is required to move swimming forward. He has an excellent background in sport at the highest level and together we know where collectively we can make a difference.”
The appointments have been welcomed by UK Sport. Director of Performance Simon Timson said: “The appointment of Chris Spice and Bill Furniss is exciting news for British Swimming’s World Class Programme. They bring a wealth of experience and proven track records of Olympic success to the preparations for Rio 2016.
“I feel certain the combination of Chris’s 16 years’ experience of strategic performance leadership allied to Bill’s coaching acumen that enabled Becky Adlington to win four Olympic medals will help all our swimmers, their coaches and support staff realise the sport’s full potential on the world and Olympic stage and UK sport will be there to support them every step of the way.”
The appointments follow a British Swimming performance debrief into the disappointing London 2012 results and a key element of both roles will be to implement the resulting recommendations.
Chairman of the debrief panel and British Swimming Board Member Craig Hunter believes the leadership team has the skills required to make the necessary changes.
“These key appointments will form a strong partnership to move British Swimming forward as outlined in the findings from London 2012 Performance Debrief,” said Hunter.
“The combined knowledge, skill sets and experience of Chris and Bill will provide the perfect leadership and support required to implement the recommendations from the Debrief and take British Swimming to the next level in Rio 2016.”
Former Olympic medallist Steve Parry, part of the panel responsible for the appointments, believes Spice and Furniss will prove to be a strong and successful combination.
“I am excited about the new partnership and what it will bring to British Swimming,” said Parry. “Bill is of the highest calibre having coached the most successful British swimmer of all time and I’m sure his appointment will fill swimmers and coaches alike with confidence.
“While Chris doesn’t have a swimming background, he brings with him vast transferable knowledge and a fresh pair of eyes to the sport. He has a proven track record in elite level sport, notably as performance director when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
“I think the partnership of Chris and Bill will be a great combination.”
Welcoming the appointments, British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes said: “British Swimming is delighted to have brought together a new leadership team for the swimming programme.
“Chris brings an impressive background in high performance sport, having been involved over a long period of time, while Bill is clearly an outstanding coach and will make a massive contribution to our strategy going forward.”