VIEW FROM THE STANDS

JOHN STANDER­LINE, CHAIR­MAN OF THE BRI­TISH ATH­LET­ICS SUP­PORT­ERS’ CLUB, ASKS IF THE SPORT IS MOV­ING IN THE RIGHT DI­REC­TION

Athletics Weekly - - Contents -

John Stander­line from the Bri­tish Ath­let­ics Sup­port­ers’ Club on changes in the sport

THE Times They Are a-Changin’ sang Bob Dy­lan – and his words are ap­pli­ca­ble now to ath­let­ics.

But are the changes we are see­ing ben­e­fi­cial to ath­let­ics sup­port­ers, ath­letes, clubs and Bri­tish ath­let­ics? I have my views and Bri­tish Ath­let­ics Sup­port­ers Club (BASC) mem­bers have theirs and the club is happy to present those thoughts to the rel­e­vant peo­ple.

How­ever, we would like to ini­ti­ate a de­bate as these changes progress. And we en­cour­age AW read­ers to ei­ther re­spond to the ed­i­tor of AW or to BASC (info@bas­club.org.uk).

So let’s get down to de­tails. What are the changes that are hap­pen­ing?

For many fans of ath­let­ics, what they like to see is com­pe­ti­tion in­volv­ing sev­eral dis­ci­plines tak­ing place at the same time. What we seem to be mov­ing to­wards is made­for-TV events where only one thing is hap­pen­ing at the same time. While the at­ten­tion that this gives to field events, that of­ten miss out on TV cov­er­age, is an im­prove­ment, is it re­ally good for the spec­ta­tor in the sta­dium?

It has long been ar­gued that with­out a good crowd in the venue, TV cov­er­age will lack the at­mos­phere of the crowd or it will just look silly. So should TV be tak­ing ac­count of spec­ta­tors’ needs too? (A dis­cus­sion of the qual­ity and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of TV cov­er­age is for an­other day!)

Ded­i­cated sup­port­ers of ath­let­ics clearly make up a mi­nor­ity of the crowd at the An­niver­sary Games or other ma­jor events and Bri­tish

Ath­let­ics must at­tract large crowds to en­sure their fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity. Ath­let­ics clubs are encouraged to at­tend Bri­tish Ath­let­ics events but few do and this is also a cause for con­cern.

As part of the com­pres­sion of events for TV we have also seen a move to hold medal cer­e­monies out­side of the com­pe­ti­tion arena. Many spec­ta­tors feel cheated that hav­ing ‘lived’ the event with an ath­lete they are not able to share the cel­e­bra­tion with them. We sus­pect that ath­letes feel that they would pre­fer the im­me­di­acy of an award cer­e­mony with the peo­ple who saw them per­form.

New events are ap­pear­ing such as the re­cent Ath­let­ics World Cup and the DNA ath­let­ics sched­uled for Septem­ber 2019 in Minsk.

Do we ap­plaud or­gan­is­ers for hav­ing the courage to try some­thing new? Or do we think that the changes de­value the im­por­tant tra­di­tions of ath­let­ics?

Are we clear as to the aim of the changes we are see­ing and are those changes re­ally com­pat­i­ble with the long-term best in­ter­ests of the sport of ath­let­ics? Cricket has seen the in­tro­duc­tion of Twenty20 and in a cou­ple of years will es­tab­lish a 100-ball com­pe­ti­tion in or­der to try and at­tract younger spec­ta­tors. Such games do bring larger crowds but also take in­ter­est away from longer forms of the game which af­fect the de­vel­op­ment of play­ers. Do we fear the same may ap­ply to ath­let­ics?

As I have men­tioned be­fore I seek to prompt a de­bate. There are prob­a­bly no cor­rect an­swers but that should not mean we avoid the de­bate.

What changes, if any, would you liketo see to the for­mat of the sport?

This in­no­va­tive new event in July gen­er­ated mixed re­views from fans

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