UK Athletics has today confirmed an amendment to age groups as part of the Rule Change Proposals for the 2024 – 2026 Rule Book has been approved at a recent UKA Board meeting. The rule change will come into effect from 1 April 2026, and detailed work will now take place to ensure the implementation plans can be delivered effectively and to the benefit of the sport.
The amendment to age groups follows the proposal by the Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs) to revise the current age groups of U13, U15, U17 to new age groups of U12, U14, U16 and U18, which will bring the UK in line with other European and World Athletic Federations.
The proposal was put forward following consultation with athletes, parents, clubs, coaches, member bodies and officials. The conclusions from which were then robustly discussed by the England Athletics Board, the England Council and a representative from the HCAFs before the proposal was submitted to the UKA board.
Reacting to the news, Gary Shaughnessy, Chair of England Athletics, said:
"The consultation undertaken while developing this proposal highlighted both the real pressures on young athletes of managing competing deadlines in their academic and sporting lives and the complexity of making changes to the rules in this area."
"By setting an implementation plan for 2026, the cross-UK team can now work to ensure that athletes get full benefit of the change proposed but that disruption in making the changes is minimised. It’s crucial that we work through all of the operational questions and get feedback from clubs, schools, coaches, parents, athletes, officials, volunteers and all involved as we do that. The programme will also report back regularly to allow us and the UK Athletics Board to assess progress and readiness."
Chair of England Council, Matthew Dalton, added:
“It is important that we work progressively, collectively and collaboratively at all levels of the sport in order to move forward and evolve, but in doing so to gather further evidence to better understand the reasons for the declining levels of athletes competing in the age groups."
"It is very clear to us that these are serious issues, and we want to do all that we can to remove barriers that exist to participation and to ultimately leave our sport in a better position for generations to come. The world is rapidly changing, and people’s leisure and sporting habits are changing too, particularly since the pandemic."
"This is not the only reason that we are seeing higher dropout rates from athletes as they pass their mid-teens, but we believe it is an important one. We have also agreed to establish a UK wide task force, including expertise inside and outside of the sport, to address this crucial and growing problem."
"In particular, we’ll look at how other sports and other countries have responded to this challenge. This task force will report on the reasons behind this issue and the actions we can take to reverse it. Details will be published in due course, including how people can get involved and support this work."