England Athletics’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2023 took place on Saturday 4 November, with options for members to attend in person or engage via the live stream.
We took an early decision to offer both options, as we are keen to continue improving engagement with our members and provide open and transparent information regarding the governance of England Athletics. We also ran a pre-AGM webinar which was subsequently available to watch on our website to give some advance insight into what would be discussed during the meeting itself, and we will make the minutes of the AGM available on the AGM page of our website on as soon as they are ready.
This is the second year of delivering against our 12-year strategic plan which we shaped in consultation with our members, and we have ensured that athletes and runners are at the heart of all we do throughout 2023. Our role as the National Governing Body is to inspire athletes of all background and abilities to reach their full potential and build a lifelong love for the sport and I’m pleased with the progress we are making.
A key piece of work for the board this year has been to continue to build back following the pandemic and push towards athletics and running becoming an even more inclusive sport where everyone belongs and can flourish.
I’m encouraged that 2023 has seen a continued resurgence for our sport particularly in terms of elite performances, where we built on the momentum of last year’s Commonwealth Games with some outstanding results at the Trinbago 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games. We have seen some very strong performances across our elite and talent pathway teams, which is particularly encouraging as we head into the Olympic and Paralympic year where English athletes can shine in Team GB colours.
Overall, athlete registration is climbing again. As at September 2023, there were 163,000 registered athletes across England, which is 6,000 more than that time last year. Growth in off-track running is particularly strong and we are also seeing success in the youngest levels of the sport, with high numbers of athletes engaging at the U11s and U12s thanks to schools, clubs and partnership programmes. The biggest area of decline is in our U17 – U20 categories, and we have recently committed to establishing a designated task force to understand the complete picture around engagement with this group.
Our sport remains diverse and inclusive relative to other sports and, while there is still more to be done, we can be proud of our programmes such as funetics and Personal Best Foundation which are helping to widen and broaden our participation base. Added to that, our membership fees are favourable compared with other sports making it a more accessible option for the public compared to other sports.
On the financial front, we are a not-for-profit organisation and last year we reinvested £8.3 million back into the sport to deliver against our strategic priorities and ultimately benefits our members. I’m pleased to say we achieved a clean audit again this year and importantly we saw an increase in income thanks to funding from Sport England and the Diploma in Sporting Excellence (DiSE) alongside the increase in athlete registrations. This is an optimistic and promising position to be in, but we of course remain cautious given the economic climate affecting us all. We are active in the market for securing new commercial partners to provide additional funds for our talent and participation programmes while giving us more financial resilience and sustainability for the years ahead.
Transfer of roles from UK Athletics
A big change for England Athletics this year is the increased amount of responsibility we have taken from UK Athletics. Their focus is now purely on running the World Class Programme, major events, the rules of the sport and the anti-doping programme, allowing us and our fellow Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs) to focus on the domestic athletics scene. This reflects some sensible decision-making in terms of where roles, responsibilities and accountabilities lies. England Athletics have taken on more responsibility for talent identification and performance, and I must commend the attitudes, dedication and quality of our staff who have taken on-board these changes - the link they now provide with clubs and their working relationship with UK Athletics is adding real value to our sport.
Working with communities
A key upcoming opportunity for England Athletics is how we can use our sport to benefit society. There are alarming statistics with regards to the growth in mental health conditions and the levels of obesity and chronic illness for both children and adults living in England, and particularly in deprived areas. Sport is proven to play a key part in improving and preventing such conditions, and the inclusive nature of running, track and field underpins the vital role that we can play. We will be working with communities and potential partners to investigate the strategies which we can develop together, assessing the impact which we could make on society and ultimately growing the sport.
Key areas of focus for 2024
Other key areas of focus for us as we head into 2024 include the ongoing work around safeguarding. This remains an important topic for England Athletics and we are proactively looking to improve, particularly in the areas of disciplinary management and welfare. We are also going to investigate how we can innovate around our competition delivery, acknowledging we are operating in a different world post-pandemic and the need to modernise in this area. This won’t be a quick or an easy fix by any means, but one thing is clear and that is we need to start adapting if we are to continue growing. The final key area we will be looking at is how do we make it easier for the fantastic people who deliver our sport – the officials, coaches and volunteers – given the difficult economic challenges we are all facing. There is some exciting work to be done, and I look forward to providing updates throughout next year.
We are committed to working in partnership with our members and not in isolation when making important decisions and we will continue to increase engagement along with transparency. We are consulting with our clubs and members, listening to everyone’s views on how the sport can develop, and robustly debating the important issues before reaching decisions. We know we have challenges ahead of us, and our commitment remains to listen to our members and promote collaboration at all times.
Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank everybody who has supported England Athletics this year, in particular our fantastic team of volunteers who undoubtedly contribute to our success. Together, we are making strong progress in our purpose of inspiring more athletes and runners of all abilities and backgrounds to fulfil their potential and to have a lifelong love for the sport.
Gary Shaughnessy CBE
Chair of the England Athletics Board