Truth behind the news: How bright is the future of British athletics?

The British Athletics Championships and World Trials at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, United Kingdom on 1-2 July 2017
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Truth behind the news: How bright is the future of British athletics?

truthbehindnews

Did you see the article in the Guardian today? Niels de Vos, the head of UK Athletics, insists the ‘future is bright’ despite recent evidence to the contrary.

Luckily, our editor-at-large, James Fairbourn, is on hand to uncover the truth behind the news


WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

Niels de Vos has not slept much over the last six months, working 18-hour days as he combines being the chief executive of UK Athletics and London 2017.

WHAT IT MEANS:

No one in athletics has slept much in the last six months for fear of police officers kicking the door down.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“We sold more tickets than Wimbledon did and more than the Open golf,” says De Vos. “For a para athletics event that is incredible.”

WHAT IT MEANS:

Incredible by para athletics standards, sure, but still less than half the available tickets were sold. Who is Niels trying to kid anyway when comparing sales to Wimbledon? Wimbledon, that ‘substantially oversubscribed’ tennis thing that saw 473,372 attend across 13 days and 93% of all seats filled.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

There will be another 700,000 in attendance for the IAAF World Championships starting on 4 August, for which Usain Bolt is the headline act.

WHAT IT MEANS:

Given a capacity of over 60,000 and 14 sessions of athletics, not quite the ‘full for every single session’ that Lord Coe promised.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

[De Vos] is particularly pleased having signed the biggest sponsorship partnership of his decade as CEO of UKA, a deal which will be announced next week and which he hopes will underwrite the core costs of the governing body for the next 10 years.

WHAT IT MEANS:

Too bad Sainsbury’s cut short their own ‘massive’ deal less than halfway through the contract. Let’s just hope the new sponsors aren’t as willfully naive as the Müller head honchos, who don’t appear to have witnessed either of their recent events, let alone offer much thought on how to improve matters.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“People are now starting to come to us saying: ‘Can we put our event into your stadium because it’s the best stadium in the world and you’re the best team in the world at putting events on.’ So that’s pretty cool,” says De Vos, “We really want this month of athletics in the London Stadium every year to be synonymous with the summer in the same way that Wimbledon is,” he adds.

WHAT IT MEANS:

Shame we gave the stadium to West Ham United for next to nothing then.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“Kids will be inspired to watch, participate and officiate in the future. That’s the more precise legacy.”

WHAT IT MEANS:

And what does British Athletics do to harness that enthusiasm? Didn’t we have the Olympics only five years ago? Wasn’t that supposed to serve the same purpose?

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“From a British perspective most of our medal shots could finish anywhere between eighth and second or third. But very few are likely to emerge and hit gold. There are one or two unfortunate injuries and often expectations are too high because winning a global track and field medal is brutally hard, probably more difficult than any other Olympic sport. But they go in buoyant and what we know is that they’ll be phenomenally well prepared and won’t let anyone down with their level of performance. I’m not discomforted by where we are right now.”

WHAT IT MEANS:

The team is terrible.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“People still trust in athletics,” he says. “I don’t buy that people are not interested in the sport because they’re still piling in to watch. People are aware that actually the sport is the cleanest it’s ever been and they definitely believe in British athletics.

WHAT IT MEANS:

Proving his ability to completely ignore demonstrable facts to remain on message. It must be those 18-hour days locked away in his Ivory Tower that have left him blind to what everybody else can see.

WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS:

“I just don’t buy this caricature [that athletics is failing],” he adds. “I don’t think there’s a credibility issue and some of the issues we’re talking about are quite historic. I think we’re in a great place in the UK, with more kids wanting to do athletics than ever before.”

WHAT IT MEANS:

‘Please help me find another job. I will do anything, anything at all. Just please get me out of here.’

Words by James Fairbourn
Image from Andrew Peat