LONDON • Sebastian Coe has proposed radical changes to inject new life into track and field, including top athletes being auctioned off to city franchises, similar to cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) president also suggested that shorter tracks should be used to try to raise excitement for audiences.
He admitted athletics needs a facelift if it is to fight for audiences, advertising and sponsorship deals with other mainstream sports.
The retirement of Jamaican great Usain Bolt has provided fresh questions about the ability of the sport to appeal to younger audiences.
Speaking at the Leaders in Sport conference in London on Wednesday, Coe said: “The sport is open and should be ready for change.
“I’m not ruling anything out now. Everything is on the table. I want to look at simple things. Why are we wedded to 400m tracks? Why not have a pop-up 300m track in a football stadium? What about cities, teams, franchises?
“You see the excitement of the pick with the IPL auction. We need to have some early moments of unease about what we are prepared to do. We have to be radical.”
Coe accepts there may be resistance to change, particularly if it jeopardises the future of established events.
“There will be challenges from the status quo,” he said. “There will be gender challenges, challenges from the field and some athletes. We should look at this now, recognise we have to make changes.”
Coe also admitted that athletics faces a challenge over replacing Bolt, and that athletes must show more personality.
“We’re in the entertainment business,” he said. “They have to have an opinion. They have to dominate a room, dominate a stadium.”
London 2017 saw a streamlining of the world championship schedule, with fewer individual sessions than previous editions and Coe said further changes could be made before the next world championships in Doha in 2019.
“In London, there were days when there were no morning sessions,” said Coe. “There was a greater focus on semis and finals, so you’re not having the souffle collapsing halfway through the evening because the crowd has just seen a spectacular final and then you go to the first round of another event.”
Coe said he was keen to see a greater focus on rivalries and competitive races than a relentless obsession with records.
“Good racing is not simply about how fast can you get from A to B,” he said. “There’s got to be a drama.”
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON