Radford offers fresh initiatives: Athletics

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The Independent Online
Prize money at domestic meetings this season and renewed efforts to secure the 2001 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics for Britain were among the initiatives highlighted yesterday by the beleaguered head of the British Athletic Federation, Peter Radford.

The federation's executive chairman has been fiercely criticised in some quarters - notably the AAAs of England - for his performance over the last three years. In that time the domestic sport has suffered a costly pay dispute with several top athletes and seen revenue from television and sponsorship drop.

The federation made a reported loss of pounds 750,000 in the last two years, and stands to lose another pounds 300,000 if it cannot recoup its loss following the collapse of the company which sponsored last summer's post-Olympic Performance Games.

It is rumoured that some clubs are planning to propose a vote of no confidence in Radford at the BAF annual meeting in March.

Criticisms about poor communication from the top were exacerbated two weeks ago by the effective dismissal of the federation's spokesman, Tony Ward, which left athletics as the only major sport in this country without a recognised press officer.

Radford accepted yesterday that this was a "ridiculous situation" and said it would be rectified soon. But there is still much to be done in communicating within the sport. Radford, however, denied he felt under any personal pressure in his position, pointing out the BAF management board had given him their full backing at the weekend.

"The sport is poised to take advantage of a totally new situation and new opportunities that are available to us now," he said. The BAF is expected to receive new revenue funding of around pounds 4m per year through the National Lottery this spring.

Radford is determined to push ahead towards what he describes as "a wonderful scenario", involving bringing the 2001 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games to the new National Stadium at Wembley. He said a working party had already been set up with the British Olympic Association to forward the Olympic ambition.

Radford also confirmed this season would mark a shift in rewarding athletes at British meetings which would involve money based on performance as well as appearance. "These things don't happen by chance," he said. "They only come about through looking ahead and deciding what kind of future you want."