Coe looks at new athletics strategy
WORLD athletics chief Sebastian Coe wants a radical review of track and field to ensure it survives as a spectator sport.
With the sport’s biggest star Usain Bolt retired, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Coe said he was considering anything from franchised teams bidding for athletes to pop-up tracks in streets and football stadiums to attract new fans.
“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 that the candid discussions would be uncomfortable for purists.
Following the success of the World Championships in London this year, 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 had 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 over-complex 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.
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 – or the NFL, where teams pick players through a draft system.
“I think we’ve just got to allow some really open discussion about what our sport looks like.”
Coe said tinkering with individual track and field events would not be enough to bring about the fundamental change that was needed.
He said his association was already working with different formats, such as holding events in the mountains, trail-running and even street-running where participants leap from buildings and scale walls.
“What about pop-up tracks? What about having a 300m track that you put in the middle of the pitch at [Chelsea’s stadium] Stamford Bridge or in a football ground in Australia? “Does it have to be a 200m track indoors? “I think we have to have very open and candid discussions and sometimes they are going to be uncomfortable.” – AFP