England Athletics 2021-2032 Strategic Plan: update

In May 2021, England Athletics launched a 12-year strategic plan following extensive consultation with multiple stakeholders from across the sport. Putting athletes and runners at the heart, the strategic plan focuses on creating opportunities, enhancing experiences and powering potential.

The overarching purpose of the strategic plan is to inspire more athletes and runners of all abilities and backgrounds to fulfil their potential and to have a lifelong love for the sport, with a clear vision for athletics to become a more inclusive sport where everyone belongs and can flourish.

Two and a half years on, we are pleased to present a snapshot of progress within our key focus areas.

Clubs, Club Leaders and Facilities

Sustainable clubs with every club growing membership levels year-on-year.

With a robust network of grassroots athletics and running clubs and facilities, we have the power to bring friends, families and communities together in a place where they’re safe, respected, valued and connected. 

  • We have already surpassed our annual target of 1,460 affiliated clubs and 300 affiliated member bodies for the 2023/24 period, and we are expecting a further 15 clubs to be ready to affiliate early in the new year.
  • We have invested over £1 million per year to develop new and existing clubs. This includes around £100,000 invested into clubs thanks to our 2023 Club Improvement Fund and Facilities Investment Fund which has leveraged an additional £500k.
  • The Club Hub section of our website continues to prove itself as a valuable asset in supporting athletics and running club volunteers, with over 50,000 page views per quarter.
  • The TrackMark process has been completed by 132 tracks around England, including the majority of key competition venues, meaning they meet the quality standards set by UK Athletics.
  • All affiliated clubs are now working towards our Club Standards, which is particularly pleasing as the welfare of everyone involved in our sport – from participants, to officials, to volunteers – remains a priority for us.
  • We are delivering against our sustainability strategy and have issued guidance for clubs, RunTogether groups, facilities, race directors and competition providers as well as offering regular webinars.
  • Led by our Regional Councils, we hosted nine Regional Volunteer Awards events around the country, acknowledging the fantastic contribution that volunteers make to our sport.


More competing athletes at all levels and all event disciplines each year.

The number of competing athletes is in decline, with research suggesting that a lower than desirable experience is a key cause. We need to improve our competition offer in order for our athletes and members to thrive. 

  • We continue to invest over £1 million into the delivery of championships and competition including over £300k to support English Schools Athletics Association, Youth Development League and Area Competition providers.
  • During 2023, 45,000 athletes competed in track and field events, which is 5,000 less compared to our 2019 figures. Furthermore, only 55% of these competing athletes rated their experience as ‘excellent’ which falls short of our aspirations.
  • Of particular note, around 30% of competing track and field athletes aged 15–20 drop out every year and we will be establishing a taskforce in partnership with the other HCAFS to address the decline.
  • We have listened to feedback, and in 2024 we aim to break this pattern of decline by reviving competitions across the country, starting with our England Championships adopting a new format next summer.
  • We have taken on the lead role in the sport for domestic competition licensing.
  • Having taken control of road and multi-terrain licensing during 2023, we will be launching a new event entry and licensing platform in early 2024. The number of off-track and multi-terrain events continues to climb with over 3,500 races licensed in the last 12 months.

Coaches and Officials

More active coaches, leaders and officials at every level and every discipline.

Our dedicated and passionate coaches, leaders and officials make our sport what it is, but we’re facing a shortage. As such, we’re now aiming to allow for more flexibility and less administration for people to start, stay and succeed as coaches, leaders and officials – spending more time doing what they do best. 

  • The responsibility for education, licensing and development of coaches, leaders and officials has now transitioned from UK Athletics to England Athletics. During the process of transfer and updating of licenses, it is estimated that 450 officials (Levels 1-3) and 3,600 coaches are no longer active – we have planned some further analysis and contact so we can accurately track these figures.
  • Now the transition is complete, our target is to recruit and train 6,000 coaches and leaders plus 1,000 officials each year.
  • Our challenge now is to optimise the delivery model across all our courses, and subsequently to track activity levels across the sport to support with capacity planning.


Recruitment and retention of athletes to maintain participation levels in athletics and running each year.

Learning to run, jump and throw is the foundation for a lifetime of activity. Through our engaging and inclusive programmes and initiatives such as Funetics, SportsHall athletics, RunTogether and the Personal Best Foundation, we are inspiring more young people of varying backgrounds and abilities to participate in our sport. 

  • We have 170,000 registered athletes, which represents an increase of 30,000 since 2020. This puts us on schedule to meet our target of 172,651 by the end of this year.
  • funetics has now engaged over 20,000 children in run, jump and throw activities since 2020. 
  • We will continue to support the growth of the Personal Best Foundation which recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary.
  • We continue our support of Sporting Equals’ British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards (BEDSA), Race Equality Charter, Leader board programme and Race Representation Index where in April 2023 we are graded B and second across all participating NGBs.
  • There are now over 200,000 registered runners and over 3,000 groups on the RunTogether platform.
  • This year, we hosted three events on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Running. As part of this, we joined forces with partners from across the athletics sector to launch an open letter calling for MPs to recognise the need for more support for physical and mental health amongst children. We look forward to building on this momentum throughout the delivery of our strategic plan.

Talented athletes

More high-performing athletes achieving performance benchmarks in all event groups and disciplines at all levels.

We want to support more people in improving their performances and feeling the pride of wearing an England vest, whatever their discipline, background or event group. Our focus here is on building quality environments at a local and regional level. 

  • We have supported around 1,000 athletes and para-athletes on the talent pathway and England representative teams this year. 
  • We have seen a slight increase in athletes achieving top 10, 50 and 100 benchmarks in comparison to 2022 figures, with around 12,000 senior and U20 athletes achieving the benchmarks. However, this is largely in endurance and sprint events, with less improvement seen in throws and jumps.
  • We are continuing to deliver a structured programme of support for England Teams, while a new talent development plan is in the process of being finalised.
  • So far this year, there have been more female than male coaches on England Teams which reflects our core value of inclusivity.
  • On the International stage, Team England secured a record-breaking medal haul across the athletics events at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, winning seven gold medals along with 15 silver and 12 bronze.
  • This was backed up by the Team England athletes competing at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year, in which the team of talented pathway athletes brought home 24 medals to top the athletics table.

Reflecting on the last two and a half years of delivery, Gary Shaughnessy CBE, Chair of England Athletics, said:

"I’m happy with the progress we have made against the strategy to date, and we are tracking well to achieve our vision by 2032."

“The board and I are committed to being open and honest with our members, so it was important for us to share a transparent report of our strategy progress. While we have plenty of milestones to celebrate at this point, we acknowledge there is still plenty of work to do and we are mobilising to address the areas where we are falling short.

"Underpinning the key focus areas outlined above is the investment of our income, and I’m pleased to report that we remain financially stable thanks to continual management of our cost base. We are careful to ensure the majority of our revenue is invested back into the direct delivery of our key focus areas across the sport, and we remain cautiously optimistic about our financial position enabling the success of our strategy. That said, we are not complacent in this area, and we are actively in the market for commercial partnerships to bolster our financial stability and resilience for the years to come."

"To get our sport back on its feet after the Covid pandemic took a gallant effort by everyone involved in athletics, proving that regardless of whether you favour track or road or field, we can achieve more when we move together. We now need to maintain this energy and focus our efforts on enhancing experiences and creating new opportunities in order to really power the potential of our athletes."

"Looking ahead to the next nine years, we have some even bigger goals to achieve, and we are appreciative of your continued and collaborative support."

Gary and Chris Jones (CEO)’s latest blog contains further reflections from 2023, as well as looking ahead to what should be a fantastic 2024 for England Athletics.