On March 22, World Athletics launched a new initiative – a Global Conversation about the Future of the Sport.
“For the first time in our history, “begins the presser, “World Athletics is reaching out to the entire athletics community to participate in a global conversation and contribute insights and feedback that will shape the future direction of the sport for the next decade.
The initiative will develop a World Plan for Athletics 2022 – 2030 in consultation with its member federations and other key interest groups, including athletes, coaches, officials, fans, schools, meeting directors, partners, and media. The World Plan will be a key document for all involved in the sport, setting out a roadmap for the growth and development of athletics through two 2030.
“We are embarking on an unprecedented global conversation with all those who love our sport and want to have a say in its future, “said W.A. president Sebastian Coe. “The global pandemic has highlighted the need and desire of governments and communities to keep fit and healthy. Athletics, as the most accessible and participate in sport on the planet, has a key role in helping achieve this.
“Our strength as a sport lies in the diversity of our community and we need to hear the voices of our key stakeholders in all of our 214 countries and territories in order to develop a plan to fully represents our global aspirations for athletics to grow and thrive over the coming years.“
The worldwide campaign will run for six weeks in the form of a survey available in 12 different languages. The responses will help give World Athletics a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and how the athletics community and visions to present and future of the sport. Through this open stakeholder-centric project, World Athletics wants to drive a fruitful conversation by asking people to embrace the chance to speak up and help to bring further significant and necessary changes and developments to the number one Olympic sport.
A draft plan will then be developed for presentation to the World Athletic Council mid-year. Once accepted, our final plan will be distributed to the member Federations for formal approval at the biennial World Athletics Congress in November 2021. This process is being overseen by the World Plan Working Group, which comprises seven council members, chaired by former triple jump world record holder Willie Banks, assisted by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte. (end of the press release.)
Notwithstanding this long-overdue outreach to previously ignored constituencies, the task before World Athletics is daunting. To begin with, strengths such as size and diversity are double-edged.
Athletics isn’t one thing, it is many things. It entails everything from the 60-meter indoor dash to trail and mountain running ultramarathons. But it also includes throws, jumps, vaults, hurdles, and walks, all of which are overseen from cradle to grave, amateur, and professional by a single organization..
Like the United Nations, but even larger, World Athletics and its 214 member nations and territories encompass both strong and weak federations, open and closed societies. Trying to be all things to all people for all disciplines, already marks the organization as immeasurably overburdened.
The constituent needs of the organization are simply too broad and, in many cases, too conflicted to be brought into a unified field theory.
No other successful sport coordinates both amateur and professional elements under a single umbrella organization. The efficiencies required to organize and market a professional sport within the landscape of other professional sports, demands full-time attention, as does grassroots and youth development.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that whenever there is the emergence of the new, it will be confronted by the recalcitrance of the old. We salute World Athletics for casting this wide net to gauge interest and gather ideas. At least the age of paternalism that once defined WA’s predecessor, the IAAF, seems to have run its course.
But much like the U.S. Congress legislated the 1978 Amateur Sports Act to break up the old Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which regulated all Olympic sports in the USA – and in its stead created individual governing bodies for each sport – what World Athletics needs most today is the courage to admit that any new world order can only be born once the old order has been broken up and redistributed into discreet channels of focus and expertise.
That said, we all look forward to the outcome of the conversation. They have a very good man at the helm in Willie Banks.