England Athletics update on Officials' strategy

We are pleased to confirm that England Athletics has taken over the day-to-day leadership and coordination of Technical Officials Education from levels 1-3, in England, and that we will also lead the ongoing support services to existing and prospective Technical Officials at these levels.

In practice this means that England Athletics, together with our other Home Country Athletics Federation partners in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, will have the accountability and responsibility for the following areas specific to these levels (or equivalent) in the qualification pathway (specific to track and off track):

  • Course structure, content review and editing to meet the needs of our sport in England (note that responsibility for other HCAFs to make such decisions in their respective territories will be extended to them as well)
  • Tutor recruitment and training for courses
  • Tutor deployment on course
  • Course organisation, scheduling, and delivery at these levels

Ongoing non-qualification-based support to Technical Officials will continue to be led by each HCAF in their respective country in areas such as mentoring, conferencing/webinar organisation (in partnership with Regional Councils and other bodies such as County Associations and Area Officials Associations).

Licensing of Officials qualifications will continue to be administered by UKA in the short term, but we plan for this responsibility to move across to each HCAF at the right time.

We need to think differently to the challenges that our sport currently faces if we are to retain excellent Officials in our sport but also if we are to recruit more Officials at entry levels and to ensure that our pool of available volunteers in these roles is diverse and representative of our wider membership.

Whilst our intention is to develop a pathway that promotes ease of access and expedites the qualification and licensing process, we are currently undergoing a period of review led by England Athletics of course provision at levels 1-3. Therefore, in the short-term, the Autumn and Winter schedule of courses will continue as present. We will continue to introduce as much flexibility as possible, collaborating with clubs at a local level to identify opportunities for courses.

We expect that any changes to course content and the process of pre and post course experience will be managed gradually and as part of this review as we look towards 2023 and beyond.

These changes will not affect the existing structures in place for the selection of Technical Officials for events and the existing tri-regional groups will remain in place fulfilling the significant role that they play until further notice.

The accountability and responsibility for organising higher level Technical Officials Education provision at levels beyond 1-3 will remain with UKA and the work of the existing Technical Advisory Group of UKA and the Education Subgroup will focus on these levels specifically.

It is expected that England Athletics will establish some form of Officials Advisory Group to help inform our ongoing review of education provision at levels 1-3, but we will continue to review this in the coming period before making further decisions on this.

To support this transition, we are also delighted to inform people that experienced Technical Official Marc Ritchie has recently joined the organisation to head up our Officials development activities and support services in England. He will work closely with our Officials Education Coordinator Lauren Fryer and other colleagues to ensure that we respond to these agreed changes proactively and that we will always put the needs of our member clubs and organisations at the heart of our planning in this area.

CEO of England Athletics Chris Jones said:

“Coming out of the pandemic it is clear there are some challenges faced by the sport specific to recruiting and retaining volunteers and particularly in critical areas such as Officiating. We need to work to better understand and address these issues through a collaborative approach with our members and with an open mind to enhancing the volunteer experience and improving the journey for someone coming into our sport as an Official for the first time.

The world is very different to the one that we realised pre pandemic and whilst the number of participating club athletes and runners continues to recover to 2019 levels, with rising costs and less active Officials, we feel that this is the right time to ensure that our support services for Officials are as good as they can be, and this will mean review but also change to the way in which we work as National Governing Bodies.

“This period has given us all the opportunity to review where support services to Officials best sit. The conclusion we have all come to is that the home country federations are dealing with club and local development issues daily, so surely the time is right for the responsibility to sit with that organisation hence these changes. We will very much continue to collaborate with UKA where appropriate, particularly when it comes to reviewing the UKA rules of competition that are updated every two years and which directly impact Officiating.”