Coe looks at new ath­let­ics strat­egy

The Herald (South Africa) - - SPORT -

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

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