National Council - Chair's Blog - May 2016
May has been busy and it is always the time when the excitement of the new track and field season and the results of all the training over the winter start to be seen, especially among young athletes. From a personal point of view after a winter of “trench warfare” in a host of admin committees and functions, it is good to see some actual athletics.
In addition to my family’s competition commitments I have been lucky enough to attend two great meetings over the last two weekends. On County Champs weekend I attended the Yorkshire Championships in Barnsley (debut-town for me) and this past weekend the Night of the 10000m PBs at Parliament Hill in London.
Day 1 of the Yorkshire Champs was a very well supported meeting at the Dorothy Hyman Arena in Cudworth. I remember reading of Dorothy Hyman’s exploits as one of the great post-war sprinters when I was a boy and it was quite emotional visiting this track in particular. The standard was good (excellent in some events) and the fields were generally large – albeit more so in the younger age groups.
I would like to thank the Chair of Yorkshire, Malcolm Fletcher and the organising Secretary Fiona Lancaster for their hospitality, Judith Temperton for a comprehensive run-down on “Athletics from a Yorkshire perspective” and Anthony Bowyer on the presentations team who sacrificed his lunch to keep me going mid-afternoon. Additionally, Yorkshire officials turned out in force and I hope that athletes/parents/supporters appreciated their contribution to the success of the event.
It has been pointed out to me that holding County Championships for thousands of developing athletes should take priority to holding BMC races and EA Combined Events Championships on the same weekend. Elite athletes will probably have a different view but the issue generally comes down to more senior officials being used at the elite meetings and weakening the support for everyone else. There are plenty of dates for these other events across the Summer. If we want to get serious about structuring a development pathway then these sort of clashes have got to stop.
The Night of the 10000m PBs was brilliant. Organised by Highgate Harriers under the leadership of Ben Pochee, it concluded with the selection races for the Olympic team in Men’s and Women’s events. These battles (and the preceding races) played out to a crowd of over a thousand under floodlights on the Parliament Hill track. A giant TV screen, constant knowledgeable commentary and a number of beer tents made it different to anything I have attended in the sport for a long time. It harked back to Friday evenings at Crystal Palace watching the then Coca-Cola meeting.
The new Sport England funding framework has been published (click here) and the EA Board and Senior Management Team is preparing the sport’s submission for 2017-21.
EA individual member affiliation numbers are strongly up year on year and at the time of writing there have been 102,466 athletes registered since April 1st, which is over 26,000 more athletes registered than at the same point in 2015, when the final total was just over 149,500.
The National Council continues to monitor progress on work underway on Schools and Facilities Strategy. We generally try to have access to this type of work while it is being prepared as the experience of our Councillors can be useful in sense-checking the work and trying to make sure it does not go down the wrong channels. Obviously we want any strategies to take account of the members’ interests. Hence in the Facilities Strategy work we have suggested how this might be used to inform clubs of how to proceed with Facilities matters such as assembling finance for projects via the EA website.
Following recent Consultation events I have been thinking about the question “What Do We Get For Our Money?” It is really difficult answering that question in practice because of the way that EA finances are set up with overlapping of the various areas that EA is engaged in. But behind the question the exact way of answering it is not really what people want to know. They ask the question because they see England and to an extent UKA as people who provide things for a payment rather than being necessarily being part of the same “family”.
As strategies for the next four years are contemplated by senior management and boards from both EA and UKA would do well to prioritise doing things that make a meaningful difference to the many thousands of affiliated members if they wish to unite the athletics and running family.
There is a lot of enthusiasm and effort going into our sport every day of the week wherever people run, jump or throw. Many people in the sport do not believe that the National Governing Bodies understand what they are doing in my observation. EA needs to become closer to its members if it is to capitalise on their vast unpaid input and enthusiasm.