Pay row puts Christie on the sidelines

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Athletics

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Linford Christie, who is in dispute with the British Athletic Federation over payment, said yesterday that he will not run in the season's first televised domestic meeting at Gateshead on 2 July. His appearance in any of the major home meetings remains in doubt unless negotiations, which have broken down, can resume in earnest.

Christie, who was named yesterday in a European Cup team from which Sally Gunnell and John Regis are both absent with injury, says he has been asked to take a pay cut from last season, something that he maintains has not been asked of Britain's two other world champions, Gunnell and Colin Jackson.

"It isn't just a case of money," he said. "I ran at Crystal Palace in the rain and cold for my club the other week for free. I ran the World Cup for free. I will be running this European Cup for free, and they are asking me to do 100, 200 and the relay.

"For me it is a principle more than anything else. If everybody has to take a pay cut, that's fair enough. But if I'm the only person to take a cut, that isn't kosher. At the end of the day, regardless of what the Federation say, I put the bums on the seats. Gateshead is my place. I pack out Gateshead. But I'm not running it."

The world and Olympic 100 metres champion is upset that reports of negotiations - which have taken place between his agent, Sue Barrett, and the head of the Federation's promotions section, Ian Stewart - have leaked out. Sources within the Federation say he has asked for pounds 250,000 as a complete package for the season. He is reported to have been offered between pounds 35,000 and pounds 45,000 for each major domestic meeting.

Although Christie has confirmed his presence for the European Cup at Lille on the weekend of 24-25 June, he has not yet been nominated in his usual position as the team captain. Two factors appear to be at work here - the impasse over payment, and Christie's intention to fly to Lille directly from Oslo, where he has a business appointment, rather than travelling with the team through the Channel Tunnel. An announcement is expected later this week.

Britain will miss the inspirational figures of Regis and Gunnell, whose defence of her world 400m title this summer is now in serious jeopardy.

Her coach, Bruce Longden, said she would not resume competition until the second half of July, when she would be looking for some flat races. He then foresaw her running "one or two" hurdles races before Gothenburg, rather than the usual five or six she requires before major championships.

Gunnell had resumed training with the intention of running a flat race in Nuremburg tomorrow, but was still experiencing pain in her heel. On Friday she travelled to a specialist in Zurich who recommended further rest. The exact nature of her injury is still something of a mystery. Longden said it was a recurrence of an old heel problem while her agent, Jonathan Marks, said she had been told it was an Achilles tendon injury.

Mark Richardson, who returned after a year out with injury last month, has deservedly been awarded the individual place. Roger Black preferred to restrict himself to a relay run in order to fit in with his intensive schedule of races elsewhere.

n Christie said last night on Carlton TV's Sport in Question programme that he would not compete in next year's Olympics. "When I get to the end of this season, that's it for me. I'm finished. I can't take any more. You are not just fighting the American athletes, you have got to fight inside your own camp. I am definitely not going to the Olympics."

Squad, Sporting Digest, page 27

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