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World Athletics looks to broaden mass participation reach

World Athletics looks to broaden mass participation reach
July 7, 2020

World Athletics has released a four-year Strategic Plan setting out ambitions to double its number of commercial partners, align its hosting protocols with the needs of cities and broaden the mass participation components of its business in a new four-year strategic plan.

The global federation, formerly known as the IAAF, said the plan had been led by its new Chief Executive, Jon Ridgeon, in consultation with its executive board, and 214 member federations.

The document indicates the world governing body for athletics will attempt to reposition some of its non-stadium running events to take advantage of the mass participation boom and align them more closely with the health and social objectives of host cities.

World Athletics also states its objective to have cross-country running confirmed as an Olympic sport.

Additionally, the plan talks about creating “weekend festivals of running” combining “a significant mass participation component” with professional road events like the World Half Marathon Championships and the World Race Walking Team Championships. It says there is also the possibility that it could combine off-road events like the World Cross Country Championships and other trail and mountain running events in alternate years.

World Athletics has been criticised in the past for not doing more to benefit from the emergence of the mass participation sector and the fact that millions of amateur athletes participate regularly in athletics in some shape or form.

Earlier this week, the federation reached an agreement with amateur running event company Parkrun to organise a series of permanent Parkrun races in the host cities and countries of world championship events, including the 2022 and 2023 World Championships in Oregon and Budapest.

The four-year strategic document promises to establish a “Pro-Running Board” to create tailor-made “solutions to recognise area and regional related needs, targeting recreational runners and focusing on societal issues - health, social and environmental responsibility”.

The plan also promises to construct “best-in-class engagement and activation platforms”, committing to have a database of one million known fans by 2024.

World Athletics said that it is aware that its strategy is being launched “at a time when the world is gripped with the COVID-19 pandemic which is challenging every part of normal life”.

The Monaco-based Federation added “we do not underestimate the pressures the fight to beat the virus is bringing on all our stakeholders - our member federations and their athletes, coaches and officials, our area associations, elected officers, our partners, the cities, governments and venues we work with, the media, our fans and all those who help deliver athletics every day.”

Lower image courtesy of World Athletics.

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