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Athletes warn Coates to bring in AOC change

© AFP | John Coates, 67, has been the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president for 27 years

SYDNEY (AFP) - 

Australia's athletes say they will hold John Coates to account after the country's most powerful sports figure was returned as president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) this weekend.

Coates, 67, who has been the AOC president for 27 years, won a secret ballot 58-35 against former field hockey Olympian Danni Roche at the Sydney AGM on Saturday to continue in his role.

Coates's task will be to unite the fractured AOC movement divided after a bitter presidency campaign, which he conceded had damaged the Olympic brand in Australia.

He has declared this will be his last four-year term of office and has vowed to step down after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Australian athletes' commission chair Steve Hooker warned Coates to keep his promise of change within the AOC amid allegations of bullying and intimidation inside its administration.

"In our conversations with John, he understands that things have to change," the former Olympic pole vault champion said late Saturday.

"There has to be some bridges that are repaired. And he has expressed to us personally that he is going to do that.

"We are going to hold him to account."

Olympic rowing gold medallist and commission deputy Kim Brennan said Roche's challenge for the AOC presidency should become a catalyst for change.

"Danni has done a huge service for sport by standing up and putting a light on to so many of these issues," Brennan said.

Swimming gold medallist Cate Campbell said attention needed to return to chasing sporting success.

"We're looking forward to moving on from this," she said.

- 'Change in culture'

Swimming Australia said even though the incumbent president and International Olympic Committee vice-president Coates had retained his position, the result would still bring change at the AOC.

"I think the reality is that John's spent the last 10 years overseas," Swimming Australia president John Bertrand told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"You know they needed more leadership at home. There's a new CEO in place that people feel very comfortable about.

"I think we're going to see a change in culture and a change in governance as a result of all of those factors."

Coates said part of his charter was now ensuring a smooth transition plan, but distanced himself from choosing his successor.

"This meeting in 2021 is going to have one, two or three candidates to choose from who are going to be better than me," he said.

"And that is my task to make sure we do that."

One of new CEO Matt Carroll's immediate tasks will be to oversee an investigation into workplace practices at the AOC amid widespread bullying claims.

Coates' right-hand man Mike Tancred stepped down from his role as AOC media director last month pending an independent committee investigation of allegations of bullying made by former AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong.

Coates said he would also put out an olive branch to John Wylie, chairman of the government-backed Australian Sports Commission, in a bid to end their ongoing feud.

© 2017 AFP