Athletics: Pascoe picks up the baton for bankrupt British athletics

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BRITISH athletics, brought to its knees by bankruptcy last October, has picked itself up, dusted itself down and entrusted its commercial future to the expertise of Alan Pascoe.

Yesterday the former European and Commonwealth 400 metres hurdles champion explained how he had sold (for pounds 5m) his 40 per cent stake in API, the sports marketing company he founded in 1984, in order to concentrate on running Britain's five annual televised meetings.

Pascoe, who will be assisted by the former British Athletic Federation promotions officer, Ian Stewart, will stage events and arrange sponsorships through a new company, Fast Track. Although he will receive the commission for bringing sponsors into the sport, the meetings themselves will be organised on a non-profit basis. Any profits will be ploughed back into the sport.

Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of the interim body UK Athletics '98, said that the commercial rights to the sport had been secured permanently by paying the administrators currently overseeing the sport a sum of pounds 400,000. This money, which came out of a British team sponsorship by Reebok, has secured ultimate control over the commercial operation for the main administrative body in British athletics. With this safeguard in place, they have contracted out the operation to someone who has worked in that area with success for more than a decade.

It was also confirmed yesterday that an agreement has been reached with the AAA of England that the AAA Championships will be a combined UK trials for at least the next four years. UK Athletics '98 and Fast Track will work in partnership with Channel 4 who will remain the television partner for the next three years at least.

While Pascoe faces the commercial challenge, Moorcroft is half-way through a wide-ranging exercise at club level to decide the sport's best future structure. "We're determined 1998 will mark the relaunch of Britain's main Olympic sport," Moorcroft said.

Pascoe sees his task as creating what he describes as a "rebranding" of the sport. "Sometimes I think we are so close to athletics that we forget how strong it is in relation to other sports in this country."

But while Pascoe and Moorcroft look to the future, the creditors of a sport which revealed debts of pounds 2m last year are still waiting for any money to be released. The Federation's headquarters in Birmingham is on the brink of being sold for around pounds 250,000, but the one remaining problem for the administrators is legal action being taken by Diane Modahl, who is attempting to sue the Federation for a reported pounds 750,000 after a successful appeal against a doping ban.

Overall, however, there is a feeling of optimism in British athletic circles. With the Amateur Athletic Association, who many have regarded as a reactionary body, now maintaining that they are on board the Moorcroft road show, the sport appears to be pulling together for the first time in years.