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UK Athletics

A future vision for track and field athletic competition

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20 September 2007


Two years have passed since the awarding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 to Britain – how time flies.  Just over five years to go and athletics in the UK is rising to the challenge of raising standards in every age group, every event, every region. 


The focus for all of us working in the sport of athletics has to be better coaching, better competition, better athlete support.  In the light of this and against a background of ever more frequent cries to address competition change, UK Athletics is publishing the second stage paper of the Competition Modernisation project.

Entitled “A future vision for track and field athletic competition”, this live model is intended to marshal all the feedback from the stage one paper – why change is needed in competition for young people.  The paper summarises the key issues and proposes the ideal competition model to address the concerns identified.  There has been a lot of different contributors and an extensive period of stakeholder consultation – particularly with competition providers for all levels.

The result is – we hope – a blueprint for future competition for young athletes.  The focus of this review is on the key age group of 11-20 with the emphasis on retention and development into successful seniors in our sport. However a lot of what is described may apply to older athletes and the emphasis on ability based competition for athlete development naturally impinges on senior competition structures.

Athlete development is the primary focus for this project and therefore we have focused on the age groups where the sport should offer appropriate frameworks.  In the more complex senior competition category, there are many issues, but many senior athletes will decide their own route through the current market offerings and concerns there can be addressed in different ways.

There are some very fundamental issues embodied within this document:

  • The principle of increased competition for younger/developmental athletes offered at regional level – both open graded and event specific.  John Graves – England Athletics Chair and acting executive has supported consultation with the regional council representatives.  Commenting on the key role for regions in making change happen going forward, John said:” In this next stage, the English regional teams will be working closely with competition providers to ensure that competition is provided within the region that supports both growing athlete participation and the performance pathway.  The guiding principle for competition for all ages will be that it is athlete-focused.”


  • The closer integration of club and schools to ensure that athletes follow a coordinated competition programme that offers the best possible programme at all levels.  This approach is endorsed by the Youth Sports Trust the key agency working at local school sports partnership level. “There is now a real commitment to modernising competitive sport for young people and the growing network of Competition Managers working across School Sport partnerships are keen to promote athletics’ competition framework and to encourage more young people to take part in competitive athletics.  Athletics is sometimes viewed as a complicated sport and we welcome the sport’s move to provide a clear integrated competition framework”, said Steve Grainger, CEO of the YST.


  • Clearer alignment of age groups, a thorny topic is once again proposed.  The principles of change are endorsed by the Event Management groups who oversee UK wide event-specific development and has received widespread positive support from people at all levels of the sport – schools, clubs and competition providers.


The next steps for this document are a period of planning implementation.  Many key competition providers who have already been part of the consultation have expressed their support for much of what is proposed.  All four home countries will play a prominent role going forward and their executive leaders have committed to this change project through the athletics’ chief executives forum.

The target for a proposed implementation model to be published is December 2007, with piloting of new competition in summer 2008, and full implementation in 2009.


To read the full paper click 'A future vision for track and field athletic competition'.

Any comments or feedback should be emailed to comptemp@ukathletics.org.uk