Dame Katherine Grainger has become the new chair of UK Sport after the Government beat a midnight deadline to appoint her before the General Election.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, who retired from rowing after winning a medal for the fifth successive Games last summer, will succeed Rod Carr as head of the country’s elite sports funding body.
Wednesday’s parliamentary vote to hold a snap election on June 8 meant that, barring an announcement before Saturday, confirmation of Grainger’s appointment would have had to be postponed until after polling day.
That is because midnight marks the start of purdah, the pre-election period during which Government departments and bodies are prevented from making announcements about any new or controversial initiatives.
As revealed by the Telegraph this week, that could result in yet another postponement of the publication of the much-delayed independent report into the climate and culture within British Cycling’s world-class performance programme.
The Department of Culture, Media & Sport obtained permission from Downing Street to appoint Grainger before purdah began.
The 41-year-old was a surprise candidate for the role of UK Sport chair thanks to her lack of experience in sports administration and it is understood she had no plans to apply for the role but was encouraged to do so.
She reached the final interview stage along with former Paralympic swimmer Marc Woods, who also competed at five Games, winning 12 medals between 1988 and 2004.
The new UK Sport chair would take over at arguably the most challenging time in its history.
It had previously basked in its reputation for helping transform Britain’s gold medal tally from one at the 1996 Olympics to 29 at London 2012 and 27 at Rio 2016.
But the past year has seen it become engulfed by an athlete welfare crisis – most notably in British Cycling – and the biggest ever revolt against its publicly-funded medal-winning formula.
The new chair’s appointment would also coincide with the introduction of the Government’s Code for Sports Governance, which includes a requirement for 30 per cent of sports governing bodies’ boards to be female as well as other diversity targets.
Being headed by a highly-decorated female former athlete would allow UK Sport to lead by example in terms of a code it has been tasked with enforcing.
Carr steps down this month after four years as chairman, having decided against standing for another term.
He was formerly chief executive of the Royal Yachting Association between 2000 and 2010.
Grainger will start sometime after the election, with vice-chair Liz Astall becoming acting chair in the interim.
It is understood UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl had also been considering her future post-Rio 2016 but chose to stay on after Carr announced his departure.