Governing body urges clubs to vote at the end of this month on significant changes to the structure of its regional and national council

English clubs are being urged to vote in coming days on proposed reforms to its regional and national council.

The changes include replacing the current eight regional councils with 10 new ‘regional forums’ with the re-establishment of a West Midlands forum and creation of two forums (north and south) in the South East area, plus the introduction of a ‘fit and proper person’ test for would-be council members.

England Athletics is staging a meeting at Holborn in London on Wednesday January 30 for clubs to cast their opinion but those who cannot make it are able to vote by proxy.

England Athletics say the reforms are the end result of months of discussion and consultation and represent the first major changes to its articles of the association since 2004-05, while the ‘fit and proper person’ test is standard in other areas of life.

But Mike Winch, the chairman of the South of England Athletics Association, is among those opposed to the plans and writing on his Facebook page said: “In my personal view it is obvious that they represent a clear threat to the last remaining pockets of democracy in athletics. In particular is the section that would give England Athletics the power to vet and refuse to allow a person they do not like being able to become an elected council member.”

There is also a feeling that some clubs might vote against the changes in order to send a message of their unhappiness with the national governing bodies based in Birmingham following a leadership crisis at UK Athletics that has seen the resignation of chief executive Niels de Vos in September and, this month, chairman Richard Bowker.

There is, however, also support for the proposals and England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones says: “At the most recent national council meeting all but one of the regional chairs reiterated their support of the changes to the articles.”

Indeed, England Athletics board members Neil Costello and Tim Soutar have jointly contacted AW to say they are concerned with the “misunderstandings” that relate to the reforms. They believe the changes will lead to positive changes and an improvement in the democratic structure.

The reforms, they add, will “improve the efficiency of communication between the board and the members” in addition to encouraging  “more volunteers from across the whole sport and from all backgrounds to engage in the council process by simplifying the requirements for nomination to stand for election, clarifying the scope of their expected work and reducing some of the practical burdens connected with performing the role”.

Costello and Soutar, who were both elected to the England board, also say the changes will “connect the regional forums more closely with all the members in their region and increase their standing by enhancing the support provided to the volunteers involved, in terms of induction programmes and continuing development opportunities, and by demonstrating that common safeguarding standards are embedded in the system”.

» More about the reforms, details of the January 30 meeting and how to vote by proxy can be found here