A thank you message from our CEO Chris Jones
“On behalf of everyone at England Athletics, I wanted to wish you all a very peaceful and relaxing holiday season with your friends and families. I would also like to thank the many volunteers from across our wonderful sport who have played an instrumental and invaluable role in helping to deliver athletics and running during 2021, once restrictions were gradually removed during the spring and summer months.
Our sport is founded on the efforts of selfless individuals and groups of people who work tirelessly for the benefit of others. Once again, this is something we should all be very proud and mindful of during arguably one of the most challenging periods in living memory.
Reasons to be cheerful
Thankfully, there are reasons to be positive within our sport at all levels. Over 1,500 track and field competitions took place during spring and summer 2021 with more than 162,000 registered club athletes and runners enjoying their training and competitive action in more than 1,400 member clubs across England.
More than 2,000 road races have returned to our streets and, as I type, we are amid a busy cross-country season with a major part of the indoor season due to commence in the early new year.
It has also been pleasing to see much needed investments made into our track and field facility stock across England with local authorities and leisure contractors recognising how important our sport is to the communities that our volunteer clubs provide for. Much of this work has been led by volunteers in member clubs and/or working on behalf of competition organisations at a local, county, area, or national level.
Journey to 2022
The resurgence of our sport continues to give us optimism as we look towards 2022, a year when this nation will host another Commonwealth Games. The Journey to 2022 has well and truly begun and we all look forward to watching Team England perform on and off the track during July and August.
There of course remain challenges ahead of us and we all hope that this latest set of UK Government restrictions, enforced to combat the threat of the Omicron variant, will not mean further limitations on athletics and running and the work that we are all carrying out to support participants of all abilities, backgrounds, and motivations in our sport.
We firmly believe that athletics and running provides the power to unite people, to inspire people, to benefit mental health, and to avert some of the direct risks associated with the pandemic, demonstrated by many of the wonderful achievements delivered at different levels of the sport during 2021.
We know that we have a challenge as a sport with regards to retaining participants in track and field athletics and that whilst recovery in off track running participation is strong we need to bring more people into the athletics and running family as coaches, leaders, and technical officials if we are to reduce waiting lists in clubs and respond to the inevitable interest that a World and IPC Championships, a home Commonwealth Games, and a European Championships will bring during summer 2022.
We need to work collaboratively to continually ensure that our services, at all levels of the sport, meet the needs of participants and volunteers in what is a different world to the one that we realised pre pandemic, embracing the digital age and adapting our activities accordingly to meet the need of those involved, realising that leisure, working, and family time is pressurised in modern society. We are prioritising these areas in our own strategic plan published in Spring 2021 in recognition of these challenges and I would think that as clubs, this focus is also reflected in local development plans and activities.
As competition and event providers we all need to adapt, to take on board feedback from our participants and evolve accordingly in what is a competitive environment, following the example set by numerous club, commercial and charitable competition providers that have innovated during the last couple of years, embracing technology and creating a fantastic buzz where the athletes, runners, officials, and spectators are truly at the heart of the experience.
As National Governing Bodies, we can help by showcasing best practice, investing in specific events, ensuring that our own competitions nationally reflect this intent, but it is a truly shared responsibility and accountability at all levels of the sport to make this happen. Something that worked five, 10, 15, 20 years ago and longer will not necessarily work now, and we need to recognise this and adapt accordingly and collaborate to make this happen.
In closing, I wish you all the very best of happiness, health, and hope that you have a fantastic 2022, whatever your involvement is in our wonderful sport.”