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UK Athletics

'Unsung Heroes of Athletics' celebrated at 16th annual Officials Conference

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The work of hundreds of 'unsung heroes in athletics' was celebrated at the 16th annual Officials Conference on Sunday.

This year's event centred around the theme of being ‘Here for the Sport’, and saw hundreds of officials make the trip to Leicestershire to discuss a number of key areas in the sport.

The conference, which took place at the Jury’s Inn in Hinckley, featured a host of interactive workshops, new for 2019, alongside sessions designed to highlight development areas for officials.

Interim chief executive of UK Athletics, Nigel Holl, began by addressing the room and outlining the three key principles that are fundamental in allowing the sport to continue to grow.

The audience then heard from UKA’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Donna Fraser, along with ED&I advocates on the work that athletics is doing to lead the way in the area.

Managing director of Sequoia Blue, Dr Valerie Kohler, also addressed the issues of how to make the sport ‘future proof’, and also gave the officials a platform to share their stories from within the sport, highlighting the good work they have done over their careers that may have gone unnoticed by others.

She put particular emphasis on the fact that so much of the good work done by officials often went unnoticed and that they shouldn't be afraid to highlight the work that they do to help the sport continue to thrive.

Also mentioned was the need to diversify the officials and help to keep the work of officials in the spotlight so as to continue the recruitment for the next generation.

Speaking at the conference, Holl said: “Things to consider are that change is constant, both in sport and in life and we’re aware of that and I wanted to share that with officials because they need to embrace change and the sport moves forwards very quickly.

“Officials are fundamental to the sport and to UK Athletics and it’s critical that we do everything we can to give them the best possible training and skills and further develop and support the role of officials.

“Without officials, the sport doesn’t function. The theme of the conference is ‘Here for the Sport’, but I want to flip that message on its head and say that the sport is here for them.

“British Athletics, and all the home countries have a big responsibility to be there for them for as long as they are in the sport. It’s a big challenge for the sport but one we can address together.

Officials were also able to benefit from a range of interactive workshops that were led by the likes of specialist speakers from England Athletics and Leeds Beckett University amongst others.

They aimed to give the officials an insight into the decisions that they make in different situations, as well as providing them with important information around a brad array of topics and matters of importance in the world of officiating.

Award winners from this year’s conference included Kelly Bissett, who was named Young Official of the Year, with Margaret Afford named the Inspirational Official of the Year.

Joy Alexander took the honour of the Officials' Official and Endurance Official of the Year went the way of Ron Morrison, whilst the David Littlewood Award was presented to Samantha Isaac.

For more information on how to become an official, visit www.uka.org.uk/competitions/officials