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Coach quits as Australia launches track and field review

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Eric Hollingsworth has bowed to the inevitable and resigned as head coach of Athletics Australia after being sent home from the Commonwealth Games for releasing a statement critical of Olympic champion Sally Pearson.

Athletics Australia, who confirmed the controversial Englishman's departure in a two-line news release on Thursday, also announced a wide-ranging independent review of the sport led by former cricket coach John Buchanan.

Hollingsworth never looked like seeing his contract through to its expiration next month after his decision to release a statement from Glasgow slamming Olympic 100 meters hurdles champion Pearson for failing to attend a pre-Games camp.

The statement was particularly ill-timed as it was released on the eve of Pearson's Commonwealth title defense and Hollingsworth was immediately suspended before being sent back to Australia.

"Athletics Australia on 3 September 2014 accepted Eric Hollingsworth's resignation as Head Coach," read Thursday's statement.

"We wish Eric all the best for the future."

Such a public row between the country's top track and field athlete and the head coach was always going to lead to recriminations for the governing body and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has decided an independent review is required.

"While there were some fantastic performances at the recent Commonwealth Games, there are a number of systemic issues facing athletics across high performance, governance and participation that warrant an independent review," ASC chairman John Wylie said in a statement.

The review has a broad remit to look at how the sport is run, including the lack of growth in participation in junior athletics, the fragmented governance structure and a "lack of common purpose and cohesion at the elite level".

The review echoes a similar review of swimming in Australia after a disappointing and scandal-ridden performance in the London pool at the 2012 Olympics.

"Athletics Australia welcomes this review, which we see as assisting the sport to create a blueprint for its future direction and development," said Athletics Australia president David Grace.

"The board, executive and member associations of Athletics Australia will give full co-operation to the review which will also incorporate the views of all relevant stakeholders."

Pearson's hurdles triumph was the only gold medal Australia won in athletics London, with silvers for long jumper Mitch Watt and race walker Jared Tallent the other medal successes.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; editing by Ian Ransom)

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