Malcolm Arnold, pictured coaching in 2008, has disputed claims that UK Athletics is "in great shape" ©Getty Images

Malcolm Arnold, one of the most respected coaches within British athletics over the past 40 years, has disputed the claim of the departing chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, that he has left the domestic sport "in great shape" - and has warned that its future looks potentially bleak because of a neglect of coach education and development.

He also described last weekend’s UK Athletics World Championships Team Trials at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham - sparsely attended, and involving very few household names in fields seeking places at next month’s International Association of Athletics Federations’ World Championships in London - as "a disappointment, to put it mildly".

"In 42 years as a professional coach, employed by the national governing body, it is the worst national trials I have ever witnessed," Arnold told insidethegames.

Arnold, head coach of UK Athletics from 1994 until 1997 and until recently national event coach for hurdles, took issue with Warner’s “self-composed eulogy”.

Warner, who stepped down as chairman of UK Athletics last month, claimed that "after more than a decade as chair, it is very pleasing to leave athletics in the UK in such great shape".

Arnold believes the International Association of Athletics World Championships from August 4 until 13, and the World Para Athletics Championships that precede them from July 14 to 23, will prove successful - but worries about what will happen to the sport in Britain afterwards.

"It is unfortunate that Ed Warner is departing the scene with so many important questions unanswered," he said.

"For many of us - maybe a majority - Ed has not left athletics in great shape, as he claims.

"The show business side of athletics will flourish, until we run out of stars like Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis.

"Mo and Jess were nurtured over long periods by top coaches.

"If we continue to ignore coaches and coaching, then we will not have top stars for the showcase."

Former national coach Malcolm Arnold has described the sparsely attended UK Athletics World Championships Team Trials in Birmingham as worst he has ever witnessed in 42 years as a professional coach ©Getty Images
Former national coach Malcolm Arnold has described the sparsely attended UK Athletics World Championships Team Trials in Birmingham as worst he has ever witnessed in 42 years as a professional coach ©Getty Images

More than a million people were reported as having applied for tickets to the London World Championships in the wake of Rio 2016, making them the most popular athletics event outside the Olympics themselves.

Last month record sales of 230,000 tickets were reported for the World Para Athletics Championships, although it is starting to look as if the packed crowds that greeted Paralympic action in the London Olympic stadium in 2012 are unlikely to be repeated.

"There is little doubt that UK Athletics is very good at showcasing athletics," said Arnold.

"The upcoming World Championships will be successful.

“However, many aficionados in athletics in the UK…wonder about the future of our sport when the current crop of superstars finally retire.”

Arnold, 77, made his name by coaching Uganda’s John Akii-Bua to the 1972 Olympic 400 metres hurdles title in a world record of 47.82sec.

He later coached Britain’s double world champion and world record holder at the 110m hurdles, Colin Jackson.

He retired at the end of December 2016 when his contract as a coach based at the University of Bath - where, since 1998, he has guided 14 athletes to 41 Major medals, including Jason Gardener, a member of Britain’s winning 4x100m quartet at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and 2001 world 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene.

"Niels de Vos was appointed CEO of UK Athletics in 2007," Arnold said.

"Soon after his appointment, he invited me to sit with him and discuss the state of the Sport in the UK.

"Within the discussion, I pleaded that he should never neglect Coach Education and Coach Development, but most importantly UKA should never neglect athlete development.

"Nowadays, it seems that the UKA hierarchy have decided to marginalise professional and volunteer coaches, who along with our brilliant officials are the bedrock of athletics in our country.

"Whilst there are still outstanding coaches, our coaching expertise is slowly dribbling away down the drain."

To read more Mike Rowbottom's interview with Malcolm Arnold click here