Athletics: Radford relieved as ITV sign pounds 6m deal: BAF executive chairman welcomes new two-year contract as basis for change

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The Independent Online
BRITISH athletics has signed a pounds 6m contract with ITV which involves coverage of domestic meetings in 1995 and 1996, with an option for the following two years.

Seven events a year are covered by the agreement - headed by the grand prix meeting at Crystal Palace. Other summer dates are at Edinburgh, Gateshead and Sheffield, along with three indoor meetings in Birmingham and Glasgow.

The deal will have come as a huge relief to the British athletics authorities, which have long relied on guaranteed television coverage to attract sponsors for key events.

The trauma of Andy Norman's dismissal for misconduct as promotions officer in March did nothing for the image of the sport, and there was concern within the British Athletics Federation about how the fall- out might affect forthcoming negotiations with television companies and potential sponsors.

As the leading negotiator with television, Norman had built British athletics a strong position over the years, but last year even he had to accept a one-year deal from ITV - operating under their own financial uncertainties in the face of deregulation - rather than the widely expected four-year deal.

In his absence, Peter Radford, the BAF executive chairman, John Lister, the BAF treasurer, and Ian Stewart, the new head of the promotions unit, have secured a deal which provides a basis from which to launch major changes which have been proposed within the sport. The BAF still has another two years left of its three-year agreement with the BBC to televise the AAA championships and one other major domestic event.

'It is a first-class deal which gives us great stability,' Radford said at yesterday's announcement in Zurich, where ITV are continuing coverage of the Golden Four grand prix meetings which also include Oslo, Brussels and Berlin.

Last Saturday, Radford said that he expected to have the foundations of a new, integrated system of dealing with athletes - involving probable features such as graded salaries dependent on commitment to agreed competitions, a code of conduct and better co- ordinated medical care - in place by next year.

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