VIEW FROM THE STANDS
JOHN STANDERLINE, CHAIRMAN OF THE BRITISH ATHLETICS SUPPORTERS’ CLUB, ASKS IF THE SPORT IS MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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