Progress has been made in spite of major problems, says European Athletics president

European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen has highlighted the “considerable progress” he feels the organisation has made in what has been one of the most challenging periods athletics has ever faced.

Writing in the report ‘Delivering Change‘ released on Thursday (January 12) the Norwegian admits 2016 brought problems on a scale which few could have imagined.

As a by-product, the European governing body has suffered the loss of one of its major sponsors – Omega – “because of damage to our sport’s image”.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) also recently lost a major sponsor in Adidas, with the sportswear giant having called an early end to its 11-year deal with the world governing body. However, when announcing the end of the partnership Adidas claimed it was because of a “strategic decision” to focus the company’s efforts on individual athletes. Nestlé decided to terminate its sponsorship deal with the IAAF Kids’ Athletics programme last year “in light of negative publicity associated with allegations of corruption and doping in sport made against the IAAF”.

While the IAAF has since announced a new sponsor in Asics, Hansen – who was elected president of European Athletics in April 2015 – believes his organisation has also been quick to adjust not only to any financial fallout but also to tackle the crisis to have engulfed the sport in the wake of the doping scandal and corruption allegations involving Russia and some of the sport’s top officials in the previous regime.

These shadows continue to hang over athletics but in what is a wide-ranging document, Hansen reiterates plans to revamp the sport in Europe, from repackaging TV coverage and reshaping event formats right through to tapping into the continually growing community of recreational runners. The creation of an online platform where doping and integrity issue reports from whistleblowers will be investigated by independent legal experts is outlined, as are processes to review the credibility of all European records.

The report is a review of European Athletics’ actions over the past 12 months, with a focus on developments made towards delivering the five-part agenda of priorities outlined in Hansen’s election manifesto ‘Leading Change’ in 2015.

The full ‘Delivering Change’ report can be found here.

“If 2015 was the year of shock, scandal and disappointment for athletics then 2016 will be remembered as the year we collectively faced up to the very serious issues and started a fight back with changes that, I believe, will ultimately see the sport emerge better, stronger and more popular,” writes Hansen.

“After 20 months as the president of European Athletics I remain committed to the vision I expressed in my election manifesto, ‘Leading Change’: an organisation ever more inclusive, more dynamic, more commercial and more visible.”

Sharing his thoughts on working with member federations, future trends and ‘reaching out’, he adds: “The future strength of athletics will depend on how well we – and here I include the member federations, clubs and other grassroots organisations – can reach out to individuals and groups and make them feel that they are part of the sport, that in their own way they are athletes.

“We must invest heavily in terms of thinking, work and resources to make sure our events, programmes and communications are really right and specific for various target groups. Our aim must be to bring athletics to every home in Europe.”