Coe calls for track and field rev­o­lu­tion

Business Day - - SPORT - Agency Staff Ra­bat

World ath­let­ics chief Se­bas­tian Coe told AFP he wants a rad­i­cal re­view of track and field to en­sure that it sur­vives as a spectator sport.

With the sport’s big­gest star Usain Bolt re­tired, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions pres­i­dent said he was con­sid­er­ing any­thing from fran­chised teams bid­ding for ath­letes to pop-up tracks in streets and foot­ball sta­di­ums to at­tract new fans to the sport.

“Noth­ing’s off the ta­ble now. Let our imag­i­na­tion run wild,” the two-time Olympic gold medal­list said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view as he warned such can­did dis­cus­sions would be “un­com­fort­able” for purists.

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of the World Cham­pi­onships in London in 2017, there are fears the next edi­tion — in Qatar in 2019 — will not draw the same crowds or world­wide in­ter­est, par­tic­u­larly as Bolt hung up his spikes after London.

The Ja­maican sprinter has been a shin­ing light in re­cent years for a sport in dan­ger of los­ing its ap­peal be­cause of the Rus­sian dop­ing scan­dal, lengthy cham­pi­onships and over­com­plex for­mats for spec­ta­tors.

“We are in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness and we have to look at it in that way,” Coe said at a meet­ing of African ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tions in the Moroc­can cap­i­tal, Ra­bat.

He laid out plans for a “strate­gic re­view” to show “what our sport will look like for the next 30 or 40 years”.

The former mid­dle-dis­tance run­ner said track and field bosses could draw in­spi­ra­tion from cricket’s In­dian Pre­mier League (IPL) — in which play­ers are auc­tioned and di­vided among fran­chises rep­re­sent­ing cities.

“I think we’ve just got to al­low some re­ally open dis­cus­sion about what our sport looks like. And yes, maybe it’s cities, maybe it’s fran­chises, maybe it’s auc­tions like the IPL, maybe it’s the pick. We need to think across the land­scape.”

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