Athletics will look at copying Indian Premier League, says Sebastian Coe – The Guardian

Sebastian Coe is considering introducing an Indian Premier League-style auction to athletics as one of a number of radical proposals in an effort to revive the ailing sport.

Lord Coe, president of the IAAF, admitted athletics needs a facelift if it is to compete for audiences, advertising and sponsorship deals with other mainstream sports. This could include athletes being bid for by city franchises in a similar format to cricket’s IPL or even having temporary athletics tracks built inside football stadiums.

“Over the next year, our relentless focus on formats and the changes we make in the sport has to be laser-like,” said Coe. “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?

“There are lots of things we can do,” he added. “What about cities, teams, franchises? You see the excitement of the pick with the IPL auction. We need to have some early hour moments of unease about what we are prepared to do. We have to be radical.”

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, speaking at the Leaders in Sport conference. “There was a greater focus on semis and finals, so you’re not having the soufflé 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.

“I talked about the concept of pop-up tracks,” he added. “We’ve got stadiums, we’ve got football pitches. Why can’t we put a 200m track in a venue? It wouldn’t be a championship track, but take the sport to where you’ve got infrastructure.”

The retirement of Usain Bolt after the London world championships has presented athletics with a serious marketing headache because there are few genuine stars who transcend the sport.

Coe admitted athletics lacks outspoken voices. “They’re not going to fill the boots of Usain Bolt straight away,” said Coe. “This is not simply about finding somebody who is going to dominate sprinting for three Olympic Games with world records. It’s actually about his personality, we are in the entertainment business.

“They have to have an opinion, they have to dominate a room, they have to dominate a stadium. I go to a lot of press conferences post race, and too often I sit there thinking: ‘Are you really offering as much as you should, in terms of the insights and the accessibility?’ On balance they’ve got to be interesting, they’ve got to have an opinion. That’s what takes the sport beyond the stadium.”

The retired British 800m runner Jenny Meadows revealed this week she has earned more money in the past 12 months since becoming a pacemaker than she ever did when competing. Coe said he was keen to see more focus on rivalries and competitive races within athletics than a relentless obsession with records.

“We’ve got to get people to recognise that good racing is not simply about how fast can you get from A to B,” he said, “There’s got to be a drama, there’s got to be things happening.

“There’s quite an emphasis on those meet directors to always push for times and distances. Sometimes there’s more to it. The choreography of a race is much more than who are the seven, 10 fastest people in the field. I think that also impacts, sometimes, on the quality of our championship races.”

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