If Seb Coe remains head of the IAAF for much longer he is going to ruin the sport with his conservative approach.
Coe’s recent announcement to remove the discus, 200m, 3000m steeplechase and triple jump from next season’s Diamond League finals defies logic.
The 200m for example is one of the most competitive disciplines on the circuit. There is extra spice whenever the top 400m runners step down to clash with seasoned sprinters. The men’s and women’s discus has had one of its more competitive and high class seasons. Plus the 3000m steeplechase is such a great tactical race to view, full of mind games. The triple jump always had tremendous entertainment value and and some of the more charismatic athletes on the circuit.
I am heartened by the public outrage of former and current athletes over Coe’s decision. My only wish was they should have spoken out far earlier about other poor decisions made by Coe & co since he first became Vice President and eventually President of the IAAF.
- “You are seriously destroying the historical and cultural heritage of the sport of athletics because of some short term marketing strategy,” – Global Throwing, a group of athletes and coaches in throwing events, wrote in a letter to IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
In the statement released by the IAAF, Coe said ““Our objective is to create a faster-paced, more exciting global league that will be the showcase for our sport. A league that broadcasters want to show and fans want to watch.”
We all agree that there is a lot wrong with the Diamond League (DL)
- The media package delivered to tv and radio sucks and is not entertaining. TV presenters lack the kind of personality that would draw the casual viewers. Poor interaction between the track presenters and athletes. The commentating is too monotonous.
- The meets are too formulated and predictable. The local meet director has little room to bring their own creativity due to the rigid format of the DL.
- The DL is only held at 14 venues across the globe (10 European + US, China, Morocco & Qatar). The DL has to expand to countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, Kenya and Canada. How the IAAF does not hold DL gigs in such athletics-fanatic nations is inexcusable.
- The big match-ups in the sprint disciplines should occur far more often to build up its media profile.
- Total prize money for the entire 2019 Diamond League season was a stingy $9 million. Given the reach of the sport the level of prize money available is disappointing. Prize money alone for this week’s men’s tennis tour finals in London is $9 million.
IAAF Needs an Injection of PR Chiefs & Big Bucks
The IAAF constantly moans about the lack of media coverage it receives in certain countries especially the US. But how many times has anyone ever seen Coe make an appearance on any sporting tv or sofa friendly shows to promote the sport? Have you ever seen Coe or Sergey Bubka (VP) anywhere promoting athletics to newer audiences? Who is the PR chief for the IAAF
You always hear the excuse that doping scandals has damaged the sport’s image and thus turns off potential sponsors. In many other sports controversy sells and draws curiousity thanks to the guile and finesse of sports administrators who are efficient at reputational management and making money.
Take the growth in popularity and revenue of Mix Martial Arts (MMA) for example. Jon Jones -one of MMA’s top fighters – has been caught up in so many scandals -including doping ones- that would make Justin Gatlin look like Mary Poppins. But whenever Jones returns from his latest hiatus he is still box office. Why? Because Dana White (head of UFC) knows how to turn a scandal into a money spinner to pull in the crowds and sponsors.
White will go anywhere to promote his sport because he treats it as a serious business and not some summer pastime, knowing full well that the coffers will roll in because of the hard work by him and his team.
New Media World Means Bolder PR
Athletics cannot attract new fans, extra revenue and increased media interest based solely on the performances in a stadium. The sport’s PR has to evolve to constantly stay in the news cycle. Stories about the athletes away from the track is a one of the ways to maintain media & public interest.
- Top athletes should be promoted via the new forums open to the public such as vlogs, appearing on late night chat shows, games show, reality shows etc. The IAAF could lobby TV companies to get some of their athletes on shows such as DWTS, I’m a Celeb and The Voice. We know top hurdler Omar McLeod has a decent singing voice. I’d be pushing for Sandi Morris/Noah Lyles to duet on The Voice & X Factor given their performance in Doha. Crossover appeal matters.
- Imagine if a training camp of elite athletes became a reality show in the lead up to the next season?
- Has the likes of Allyson Felix, Shelly Anne Fraser-Pryce or Dafne Schippers appeared on BBC’s popular comedy-sports quiz show “A Question of Sport”?
- The IAAF’s PR machine should be working with the media to make more on the success of mothers Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Nia Ali who all won gold medal in Doha.
- Elaine Thompson, current double Olympic champion, recently got married. Thompson should be one the sport’s leading ambassadors but rarely does interviews away from the track. Given Thompson’s status her recent wedding should have gained wider publicity. If only the IAAF had the kind of publicity machine that could pitched such human stories to the likes of Hello magazine. Top [US pole vaulter Sandi Morris (below) also married fellow Olympian Tyrone Smith right after Doha.]
Coe and his team have missed a golden opportunity to apply Usain Bolt’s public relations template across the sport. Despite his retirement Bolt still manages to get more media attention than current athletes.
The IAAF and their national affiliated bodies should ensure that the top athletes are given adequate pr training to hone their communication skills so that they are selling the sport 24/7.
The IAAF simply needs a new form of leadership. They need a leadership team that has great motivational and PR skills. People who will expand the sport through effective lobbying of governments, media and big business. Someone who will improve the earning power of the athletes.
Show Coe the Door
We have to remember that Coe is a former UK Conservative MP and represents the Tories in the House of Lords. What do the Tories thrive on? Making unnecessary cuts. Athletes must now be concerned if other disciplines will be removed post 2020.
Time for the current athletes to cut Coe before he ushers them from the stadium. For good.
- Beatrice Chepkoech: Diamond League move will kill careers
- Diamond cut – JAAA president laments omission of events from IAAF’s showpiece League final
- Dina Asher-Smith endorses Christian Taylor’s new athletes union after Diamond League event cull
- Letter: USATF AAC Bewildered Over DL Event Cuts