Track and field supremo airs optimism as European Athletics ushers in changes

IAAF president Seb Coe stated his desire to make 2017 the start of a ‘new era’ for athletics on a day when several developments were outlined at European Athletics’ annual convention in Funchal, Portugal, on Saturday.

Coe took over the reins at the world governing body last year amid a period of turmoil for the sport which saw allegations of corruption among top officials in the previous regime and evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

He has promised a fresh start for the IAAF and earlier this year outlined 15 proposals for reform. On the third day of the conference in Portugal, he took part in discussions regarding these reforms with leading European Athletics officials, including president Svein Arne Hansen.

The IAAF council has agreed to hold a special congress in December where final reform proposals will be put to the global member federations. Stressing the urgency, Coe told Inside the Games: “We don’t have an indefinite amount of time to sort of sit there, sort of crafting this over five, six or ten years.

“We need to put safeguards and securities in place, including the creation of the Integrity Unit which will really change the way we go about our anti-doping processes.

“We need those in place and we can’t wait until 2023 or 2019 – actually we can’t really wait until a Congress in 2017.

“That is why I’ve advanced the revised constitution for vote in December this year so it allows us for instance to get the Integrity Unit up and running in April.”

Coe also expressed his vision for athletics to be one of the top four sports globally by 2022. He has previously spoken of the need to increase interest among a new, younger audience.

Meanwhile, preliminary plans for a ‘Ryder Cup-style’ USA versus Europe match starting 2019 were outlined by the sport’s most powerful continental body.

Further, a new rankings system to dictate qualification for European championships is being proposed. Based on results in predefined international competitions and national championships, it will apply to all disciplines except cross-country, half-marathon, marathon, 50km race walking and the relays. The system remains subject to expert statistical scrutiny, said European Athletics.

When it came to governance of the sport, Coe said he had no doubt the IAAF would reach gender balance in its council by 2023. Currently, the IAAF lists only five women among its 27-strong council members.

The session took place ahead of tonight’s ‘Golden Tracks’ awards ceremony where the European male and female athletes of the year, together with the two ‘rising stars’ winners, will be announced. Click here for the nominees.

» See next week’s Athletics Weekly – out October 20 – for more details on the European Athletics developments