20th January 2009

Re-shaping The Competitive Landscape

20 January 2009


Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine


There was much press speculation last week that the Aviva London Grand Prix is likely to become part of a revamped IAAF Golden League series from 2010. As AW reported, this was something of a false start. An IAAF study has been underway for some months and, yes, we are happy to explore the possibility of London’s participation. However, there are many hurdles still to clear, both commercial and sporting.


It is imperative that the IAAF prioritises this project, for in an increasingly crowded sporting landscape there is a widespread feeling that the current Golden League format doesn’t hit the mark. And athletics would surely benefit from a competition series that spectators – both in the stands and at home – regarded as meaningful. If London can be there on the right terms, I’d be delighted.


A major consideration in reworking the international athletics circuit is the competition calendar – not just for elite athletes, but for all interested in competitive opportunities. And, of course, there is much overlap between the two at the margin. The UKA competitions team has worked hard in recent years with Britain’s leagues and competition providers to create a calendar that meets the varying needs of athletes and the ambitions of organisers. The balance is delicate, and probably never perfect, and we would not want to upset it without very good cause.


Finally, I’d like to turn to Jonathan Grix’s provocative article about UKA last week which trailed his forthcoming research paper. In my many years in research departments, albeit not academic ones, I understood that one of the first rules of primary research was to seek contact with the subject of your analysis, if only to prevent unnecessary factual inaccuracies. However, I’ve never heard from Dr Grix, nor as far as I can ascertain have my colleagues. I hope he’ll permit me a couple of observations on his work here, then.


First, substantially less than half of UKA’s funds come from UK Sport. Much of the balance, raised from our commercial work, is spent on developing and nurturing grassroots athletics. The reason why you don’t hear us talking about this on BBC radio is, frankly, because the broadcast media are not interested – for very understandable reasons.


Second, Dr Grix forgets entirely the Home Countries federations. These, funded by the sports councils and assisted by UKA, are charged with supporting the grassroots. A huge amount of our time is spent working with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The outcome of this work may not always be popular, but I can assure you that it is not fixated on immediate Olympic success.


Dr Grix, feel free to contact me at UKA, if only to give the appropriate balance to your list of sources when your paper is eventually published.