Following a period of analysis, UKA have released the following statement to provide an update on the initial findings and inform every one of the proposed next steps in the process.
Firstly, we would like to thank everyone for their contribution to this process. Receiving nearly 10,000 survey responses and more than 100 separate submissions demonstrates how passionately the athletics community regards cross country.
This response represents a significant level of engagement received from athletes of affiliated clubs and representative of the membership. We have also learnt more through this process about how to engage, we will continue to consult regularly and be open and transparent in the decisions we make.
This consultation commenced due to the focus on finding out how to achieve equity of opportunity, including but not exclusively about race distances. Specific to this area there have been some clear findings:
- A majority of respondents showed preference for separate male and female races to maintain value and exposure and quality of racing and although some respondents felt that equity could be achieved through one mixed race, this was not a majority preference.
- There was a difference in preference of distance between men and women though, with the majority of women preferring 8k and men seeing 10k as the optimum racing distance.
- And whilst more than half of respondents think guidance from National Governing Bodies is important, there was an even greater preference for competition providers at a local level to determine how best to deliver cross country competition most effectively.
However, whilst these findings are key to one aspect of the consultation, we also gained as a result, significant insight into some of the other fundamental challenges facing the cross-country community, including:
- Access to new, improved and unique courses and venues that would offer better opportunities for races.
- Raising the profile of events and capitalising on the growth in order to sustain the popularity.
- Recognising the differing needs of competitors from the elite end to the grassroots competitor and supporting, as in other event groups, a plan for long term athlete development.
- Creating a product that is welcoming to all - recognising and appreciating all those that want to participate and being a friendly, positive experience.
As a result of these findings, it is apparent that cross country would benefit from a wider strategy to be produced that recognises the event’s unique characteristics and requirements - that being a test of all endurance athletes from middle distance to marathon, on varied courses with obstacles and challenging terrain. This strategy should work towards a clear outcome as to how to maximise the potential of cross country as a discipline from participation through to performance at a club, league, area and national level. Only after this can a more informed and robust decision be made with regard the most appropriate distance of courses.
Ownership and delivery of the strategy will be led by Welsh National Coach Chris Jones and the Head of Endurance feeding into newly formed Endurance Sub-Group of Competition Working Group. Whilst this may increase the timelines, it is clear the wider process will allow for enhancements, greater investment in cross country, and in turn a more cohesive community that believes equity is important and can be addressed in the most practical way without impacting the integrity of the event.
A webinar so that key results from the survey could be presented took place on 22 April. We will continue to engage with those who contributed to the consultation from across the cross-country community as the wider long-term strategy is developed. Click here to download the summary slides (PDF 690kB).
England Athletics will continue to work to ensure the views of our members clubs, athletes and partners are represented in the development of future strategy.