Global governing body outlines separate road and off-road championship ideas and highlights four-year focus as it aims to drive growth in the sport

The introduction of aggregated ‘road’ and ‘off-road’ championship events are among the competition innovation ideas detailed in World Athletics’ new four-year strategic plan for the sport.

The document, entitled ‘Strategy For Growth’, details how the global governing body intends to grow the whole of the sport, using the “power and accessibility” of athletics and its athletes to “create a healthier and fitter world”.

With an aim of combining world-class elite events and athletes with mass participation competitors, there are plans for a World Athletics Road Championships weekend celebration of running which will bring together the World Half Marathon Championships, a mass event and other potential elements such as the World Race Walking Team Championships, an Ekiden relay or a world 5km championship.

Consideration is also being given to a World Athletics Off-Road Championship in intervening years, which could combine the World Cross Country Championships with other off-road disciplines such as trail and mountain running.

The ‘vision of growth’ timetable states that the delivery phase for the aggregated road/off-road championships would be 2023.

World Athletics says it will also work with the IOC and other stakeholders to get cross country into the Olympic programme. The discipline was part of the Summer Olympics many years ago, but it was removed following the 1924 Paris Games.

READ MORE | Blog: Cross country for the Winter Olympics

The focus of the strategic plan is on four priority goals: participation and events, people, fans and partnerships.

World Athletics intends to deliver more events at every level of the sport; celebrate, support and develop the people who deliver the sport throughout the world, at every level; encourage fans to watch the sport’s athletes compete and engage with them through new platforms and initiatives; and increase its current number of meaningful commercial and non-commercial partnerships to generate new financial and activation opportunities.

When it comes to participation, World Athletics says it will invest in athletes and the development of its competitions by delivering more events where athletes can earn income and create more opportunities for people to participate in athletics across all levels.

READ MORE | World Athletics partners with parkrun

The governing body also wants to double the number of new recruits who support the delivery of athletics, whether as coaches and officials or in member federation, event or club roles, and will create a new e-learning platform offering teaching materials and courses.

“A huge amount of work has been put into developing our four-year strategic plan, led by our CEO Jon Ridgeon and with input and involvement from all at HQ, our executive board, our area presidents, commission chairs and commissions,” said World Athletics president Seb Coe.

“This is an exceptional body of work that brings together all the great things we do as a global sport body with a laser sharp focus on doing it better, and includes some innovative and creative ideas to drive growth in our sport.

“It is exactly the type of roadmap our sport needs to bring together all our stakeholders with a single vision, mission and clear priorities.”

The document’s introduction states, in part: “World Athletics faces an unprecedented opportunity for growth. Four years of bedding down a strong governance foundation and creating a more transparent and accessible sport, willing to create dialogue and tackle tough decisions has gone a very long way in establishing World Athletics’ credibility and trust.”

Later, the document adds: “We have cleaned house and built trust across all our stakeholder groups so we are ready and set up to confidently grow our sport and make brave decisions.”

The full document is available for download here.

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