Athletics: Chataway and Moorcroft begin looking to the future

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The Independent Online
British athletics has enlisted the help of one of its heroes of the 1950's as it takes a first step back towards financial health. Mike Rowbottom, our Athletics Correspondent, hears the latest plans.

The future of British athletics will be determined in the course of the next year by a 14-strong steering group which has been set up under the chairmanship of Sir Chris Chataway.

The chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, who represented Britain at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, will join Dave Moorcroft - the chief executive of the now insolvent British Athletic Federation - in an extensive consultation with all parts of the sport.

The group will be set up within a new body to be known as UK Athletics '98, which will receive pounds 300,000 of funding from the UK Sports Council it will also take over the day-to-day responsibilities of the BAF.

Although Moorcroft is being careful not to upset factions within the sport by pre-judging any issues, it seems clear that whatever new form a British athletics administration takes, it is likely to be a less centralised and bureaucratic creature.

"The BAF has tried to be too things to too many people," Moorcroft said. He hinted strongly that the promotion and organisation of Britain's televised meetings would be put out to tender.

"A possible way forward is to separate the events side of it. It's generally agreed that there are better agencies for delivering certain parts of the sport."

A spokesman for the administrators currently ordering BAF's finances would neither confirm nor deny that there had been offers from outside agencies to run the sport's commercial side.

There are rumours, however, that several have already indicated interest, including Mark McCormack's International Management Group, and Alan Pascoe International.

One rumour suggested that a sum of pounds 2.5m had been offered for an overall package had been offered.

Moorcroft stressed that the new body would aim to base itself upon secure funding independent of the vicissitudes of money generated by television and sponsorship, with more of it likely to come from the Sports Council or the National Lottery.

He accepted the sport as a whole was still confused - "I am, so I'm sure the sport must be" - but said there was already general agreement over the need to implement a registration scheme, something long resisted by the grass roots of the sport.

"If this is set up on a regional basis, rather than delivering money into a central pot, I would have no problem with that," he added.

The crucial question, as Moorcroft acknowledged, is how the powerful English region - the Amateur Athletic Association has reserves of close to pounds 2m - would fit into any new structure. Animosity between the AAA and the BAF was a major factor in the latter's downfall.

"Athletics is facing its biggest test for many, many years," Moorcroft said.

"The changes made in recent years have been made at the edges of the sport. Now we will have to see whether there is a will to make fundamental changes."

The steering group will also include representatives from all seven regions, two as yet unnamed senior athletes and three external members - Sir Paul Fox, a former chairman of ITN and managing director of BBC network television, Ronnie Kells, the retiring group chief executive of Ulster Bank, and Karena Vleck, of the solicitors Farrers and Co.

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