DEMOCRACY AND TRANSPARENCY IN ATHLETICS

The present financial crisis will see greater scrutiny of those unelected bodies financed by public monies – the quangoes. The perceived wisdom now is that Sports Governing Bodies should be both democratic and transparent. In the past a failure to involve the participants and the volunteers into the governing process has led to demoralisation and decline.

Since the abolition of BAF in 1997 athletics in England has fallen very far short of acceptable standards of democracy and transparency. Sure enough our NGB has paid lip service to these aims but in recent years the promises of democracy and transparency have not been delivered. To give some examples :

1. The recently formed RunBritain Management Group is the successor body to the Road Running Leadership Group and is a subsidiary of UKAthletics. The Group virtually controls endurance running in Britain. The voting members of the Group are: Geoff Wightman CEO of Scottish Athletics, Nigel Jones elected representative of races with less than 4000 runners, Andrew Taylor elected representative of races with more than 4000 runners, Ian Stewart senior endurance manager of UKAthletics, and Mike Summers CEO England Athletics.

Note that only 2 out of 5 of the members of the Group are elected and that 60% of the Group are paid employees of the Governing Bodies. Also Hillary Walker who represented the clubs on the Group appears to have resigned as has Bill Gardner the representative of the small races. UKA are very good about publicising favourable stories about themselves but not so good when the news is controversial. Why have Hillary Walker and Bill Gardner resigned ?

2. What is the situation regarding Nova International the organiser of the Great Run Series?. Max Coleby of Nova was represented on the RunBritain Group but is there no longer. The Great Run racesdo not now appear to grant discounts to affiliated club members. Is the rumour that Nova are no longer involved with UKA correct ? If so why?

3. The Online Running Club established last year by UKA had been publicised as having the aim of becoming the largest club in the world and was destined to provide vital financial support to athletics (UKA). How is it doing ? Rumour has it that it has bombed. Its membership is insignificant and its future is in doubt.

4. In the latest England Athletics plan submitted to Sport England at the end of 2008 a key feature was the expansion of Park Runs to encourage grass roots participation. Substantial funding was to go to the operating “not for profits” company with no club involvement. This idea has now failed due in part to the NGB’s own health and safety and child protection legislation. Another great idea bites the dust. So, where will the funding which had been allocated to this go?

5. Following the 2008 re-organisation of England Athletics and the dismantling of the costly 9 Regional offices non executive committees have been retained manned by club representatives. These seemingly democratic Regional elected committees appear to be solely talking shops. The result is that club representatives are reluctant to join bodies which have no power and are achieving little or nothing.

6. And how are the top posts in our sport filled? All those seeking election to a senior position in the sport need to be approved by The Athletics Appointment Panel. It seems that anybody with ideas that are at odds with those of the professional employees of the sport are excluded by this panel. The Appointment Panel for England Athletics consists of the Chief Executive of UKA, a representative of Sport England and the Chairman of the England Athletics National Council. To add an air of democracy senior appointments have to be ratified by the Members Council. This body was formed to represent “the conscience  of the sport”. To date it has not failed to rubber stamp every top appointment. Not much there then.

So there we have it. Initiative after initiative, introduced without proper consultation, and all failures. It would be risible except that these mistakes have diverted attention from the issues which should have been addressed as well as absorbing funds and the time of the highly paid “professionals” who have high jacked our sport.

ABAC Comment. The failure of so many initiatives comes as no surprise to ABAC officers who have consistently exposed the various plans as ill conceived, counter productive and against club interests. The fact that England Athletics has changed many of its plans to reflect ABAC comments is of little comfort. We should have been at the table not outside the room.

But there is a brighter future.  We do look forward to the day when the Freedom of Information Act is applied to quangoes. As sure as night follows day this will happen and we have our questions ready.

Category: Governance