World Athletics against federations gagging coaches

Being a top Olympic sport, athletics is keen to attract a bigger audience and also get closer to its fans.

Sebastian Coe

“Our most important assets, our athletes, have communicated better and in a more personal way. We want to have greater connectivity with our athletes,” said Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics.   -  REUTERS

Athletics, being a top Olympic sport, is keen to attract a bigger audience and also get closer to its fans. The coronavirus pandemic may have destroyed the competition calendar this year but it has helped the sport’s world body to understand its stars and fans better.

“Our most important assets, our athletes, have communicated better and in a more personal way. We want to have greater connectivity with our athletes,” said Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, while speaking during the webinar organised by the Asian Athletics Association on Monday.

“And we want athletes to continue to communicate with their fans. We also want to make the sport more understandable and acceptable to our fans with new formats and better levels of presentation.”

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Strong bond

During the webinar titled, ‘Athletics in the eyes of the media’, it was made clear that telling the stories of the athletes helps the sport build a strong bond with the fans.

But there is a hitch in India and probably in many other countries too. Some of the country’s top national coaches, especially foreigners, have frequently said they have been barred from talking to the media. A leading coach was strongly warned after he spoke to a journalist, while a couple of coaches have even revealed that there is a clause in their contract regarding this [not speaking to the media]. This, along with the absence of live television coverage, restricts the sport’s growth in the country.

But World Athletics is completely against national federations or employers gagging coaches. “No, they should not be barred from talking to the media,” said Jackie Brock-Doyle, World Athletics’ executive director of the communications department, in reply to a question from Sportstar.

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The future

Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Al Sabah, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia who inaugurated the seminar, said the pandemic offered a good time to ponder over the future.

Dahlan Al Hamad, the president of the Asian Athletics Association, revealed during the meeting that the Asian Championships will be held at Hangzhou, China, from May 20 to 23 next year.

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