The UKA Futures Programme

About the scheme

On 10 November UKA announced a new initiative to support 17-20 year olds. The scheme which starts in December 2009 will provide up to £2250 to each of 40 athlete/coach pairings. (£1500 to the athlete and £750 to the coach). The performance criteria has been set out on the UKA website. Athletes and their coaches will be invited to submit an application for access to this funding with a cut off date of 2pm on Wed 25th November 2009.So far so good. But what are the criteria for participation? To find out ABAC has commissioned one of the World’s leading statisticians – Rob Whittingham – and asked him to analyse the targets set for the various events and age groups. Here is what he has concluded.

The Rob Whittingham analysis.

I am a firm believer in supporting athletes in this age group and therefore was very disappointed on reading the programme’s selection criteria. They are in many cases irrational and arbitrary.

Setting of Standards.

The first concern is the exact standards of the levels set for all groups. For example the required standard for the men’s 1500 is 3:45.09, while the men’s 10000 is 28:40.88. Levels set to 1/100sec indicates a lack of knowledge of the sport. Entry standards for international championships are not set to this level of accuracy.

20 years and under.

But of far more concern are the actual levels themselves. They seem to bear no relevance to British or World levels for athletes of this age.

  • The women’s pole vault level is 3.80 – 154 athletes in the world in this age group have attained this level, including 6 British athletes.
  • The men’s hammer level is 73.56 with the senior hammer, only one athlete in the world has thrown this far.
  • Other examples include men’s 200 metres – 113 world athletes have run 21.23 or better, women’s discus – 57.78 only achieved by 3 athletes in the world in this age group.

The random nature of the standards means that events in which British athletes would qualify for funding is completely haphazard. Of the 40 events, there are only potential qualifiers in 15 events (37.5%). No men’s field event will be included. There are 8 qualifiers in the men’s 1500 metres, which is not representative of Britain in this age group in world competition. In total there are potentially 58 qualifiers but this number is meaningless.

18 & 19 Year olds and Under 18 athletes

There are 2 other age groups in the programme. Again levels have been set and in both cases the method is even more bizarre than for the 20 year old levels. The levels have been set from the slowest qualifying performance in semi finals for running events at the age group world championships. The 8thposition in the championships is used in those events with no semi final. This produces some very peculiar levels. The 100 metres standard will be dependant on which way the wind blew in the championships in the semi final and middle distance standards are bound to be low because of the tactical nature of some heats.

This proves to be exactly the case

  • The 100 metre level in the 18 &19 year old group has been achieved by 82 athletes in the world including 4 British.
  • For the same age group the 1500 is even worse – the mark of 3:51.21 for the men is well below the levels recorded in the world for this event, and probably more than 100 athletes have achieved this.
  • The women’s level of 4:24.82 set for the 1500 metres has been achieved by 75 athletes in the world.

With these low targets set by UKA, 73 athletes in 27 (67.5%) different events are eligible to apply for the support. However, the 1500 represents 33% of all qualifying athletes.

The low targets for the Under 18 age group mean it is difficult to assess them in world terms. 67 athletes qualify in 29 (76%) events. Again the 1500 metres represents a large percentage of the athletes (28%)


The levels seem to have been set by UKA with no regard to the sport itself. Another of the world’s leading statisticians concurred with me that using semi final times showed “no understanding of the sport of athletics at all”.

Whilst these levels will only be used as guidelines, they should not form any part of the decision to support athletes. It is also possible that young athletes who should be considered will be missed.

ABAC Comment. Here again we have a UKA initiative which appears not to have been thought through. Yes, we applaud the concept but the performance  analysis is unprofessional. The target standards are variable. In many cases they are well below what is required and in some cases way above what is possible. And we note the 4 week period from the announcement of the scheme to its closure. Surely this timescale is not reasonable – unless the names are already in the frame and we are going through a process to demonstrate fairness and transparency. It is disgraceful this scheme was not subjected to proper analysis before its launch. Shoddy work UKA.

Category: Governance