Thursday, 16 August 2018

Chairman's blog August 2018

I just wanted to mention and thank two of our most senior volunteers who are stepping down from important positions. Elyzabeth Shitta-Bey has decided to hand the baton of Membership Secretary on after very, very many years of huge effort on her part. I am not quite sure if she started when her daughter Doja who is now a solicitor started to sprint for the club. But she has carried on ever since and manages to find the time to coordinate the Jack Petchey Foundation awards scheme, manage the YDL Upper Age Group team (the composite team with Basildon AC) and the club’s website and media relations as well. Obviously we are indebted to Elyzabeth for all her efforts on our behalf and wish Barbara Wilson, who has volunteered to replace Elyzabeth, all the best with the membership role.

Cheryl Brown, the Club Treasurer, will also be standing down in her case following the AGM. Cheryl has had a change in living plans since she took on the job and it is no longer practical for her. This is a shame as she has much needed skills (for us) in finance and understands the needs of volunteering. Thanks for your efforts over the last couple of years, Cheryl. If anyone knows of any potential club treasurers…let me or Nina know.

I have been on holiday in the North East USA for the last fortnight. I was delighted to hear that our Men’s British League team had won the last match of the season with a season-best (for any team) of 356 points which took us into 4th place for the season. Our chances of winning were effectively over when the British League decided to hold the season-opener on the same day as the British Universities Championships. Most teams rely heavily on student athletes and the decision by UKA to “permit” these fixtures against each other showed an absence of understanding of athlete development opportunities below those athletes financed by UK Sport.

But at least by winning Rowan Griffiths prevented Birmingham club Birchfield from winning all the matches for two consecutive seasons – only ever achieved by the Beagles in the history of the British League (I think – well it sounds good anyway).

The Summer teams have generally done well. The main Women’s team managed by Tim Mundle finished a great third in Div 2 of the UK Women’s League while the Youth Development League (YDL) Upper Age Group team managed by ES-B finished 2nd in South Div 1B giving winners Havering a real run for their money over the first half of the season. The Lower Age Group team found it tougher going and Sarah Alexander will now start to re-build next year.

The YDL teams demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of our various events. In short we do not have enough locally produced/developed distance runners and technical event (especially throws) athletes. The biggest reason for this is the low level of coaching available in these areas. Our head of coaching, George Choat, has started a distance group at the London Marathon Community Track. But this is going to take a while to produce results.  

So we are now getting ready for the Winter season again. Our aim is to make progress in the areas we have not really been present in past years – namely age group and women’s teams.

To close I was disappointed to hear that former UKA Chair Ed Warner thinks that the sport receives too much money from UK Sport and should be more self-sufficient in funding its athlete development programme. He does not see why athletics needs 76 athletes funded to varying degrees on the UKA World Class programme and says that all funded sports should raise 25% of their athlete funding programmes themselves from external sources. This would free up money for UK Sport to support other sports which currently receive no funding.

In theory his arguments probably appeal to sports politicians. In practice, however, the financial record of UKA while he was Chair (2007-17) point to the difficulty the sport has had in raising revenues at all, let alone to compensate for a loss of grant funding.

The UKA Accounts show that total revenue in the year to March 2007 was £22m of which £6.6m (30%) came from UK Sport and Sport England. By the latest published year to March 2017 this had risen to £24.7m of which £8.8m (36%) came from those two bodies and a further £2.1m was money received from the bodies promoting the 2017 World Championships. For reference the Rugby Football Union had revenues of £185m in the year to June 2017.

So UKA’s revenues in total grew by 12% in the 10 years Mr Warner was the Chair or just under 1% annually, virtually all of which came from increased grants. So it seems very unhelpful in my opinion to now argue that it should receive less money from UK Sport.


In my next Blog I will pay tribute to as many of our great athletes who have achieved competitive distinction this Summer as I can.

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Chairman's blog August 2018

I just wanted to mention and thank two of our most senior volunteers who are stepping down from important positions. Elyzabeth Shitta-Bey h...