Athletics: Securicor safeguard British future

British athletics, which has undergone turmoil in the last two weeks following the resignation of its head, Peter Radford, had brighter news yesterday with the announcement of two sponsorship deals to benefit the top and bottom ends of the sport.

The first grand prix meeting of the season, at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield on Sunday 29 June, will be backed by Securicor in a two-year deal worth around pounds 1m.

Meanwhile, the National Junior Athletics League, which has existed since 1989 on a minimal grant from the British Athletic Federation, has heard that it will benefit from a new five-year, six figure sponsorship contract with SMC, the computer firm based in Slough.

The new money will supplement a five-figure sum from BAF and will enable the NJAL - which serves the 17-20 age group between young athletes and senior levels to secure its future. The league comprises over 150 clubs across England and Wales who will compete this year on a regional basis (north and south) with the best teams contesting the "grand final" at the SMC Games in September.

John Powell, the chairman of the NJAL foresees the number of clubs rising from its current level to around 200 by the turn of the century. "Over 20 years in junior athletics I've seen so many athletes drop out," Powell said. "Unless you are in the top two or three in the rankings you get virtually nothing for your efforts." Powell believes the new deal, which offers bursaries to outstanding competitors, will do much to keep young talent in athletics.

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