Paul Briscoe outlined the background to the issues.


An EGM of the Valley Striders, convened some 18 months ago, discussed the restructuring of Athletics in line with the Foster Report. This meeting showed that our members were almost unanimous in their opposition to the formation of England Athletics (EA), which was intended to take over governance of athletics in England. The primary reasons for our members’ opposition were as follows:


  1. UK Athletics was accountable not to the sport it governed but rather to the present Labour government which simply wanted it to deliver more medals. UKA appeared to have little or no interest in the grass roots of the sport.


  1. UKA had effectively forced the new structure upon us and refused to be bound by the results of a poll of clubs – this led to distrust.


  1. The new body (EA) would add a new layer of expensive bureaucracy which our members felt would bring little benefit to the “recreational” runners who make up the bulk of the sport.


  1. The proposed structure for the new body lacked transparency and accountability – it would be highly paid executives, not elected representatives who would ultimately decide the amount athletes would pay and how the money would be spent.


Despite the lack of a ringing endorsement from the clubs, EA did take over the running of athletics as planned by UKA. Some attempt has been made to give athletes a voice at a regional level, but the new structure still falls well short of full accountability. The new EA membership scheme is due to go live in a couple of months and the charge per athlete will be £3 this year, rising to £5 next. However, the key unknown is what the fee will rise to in the future if, as expected, government funding of Athletics ends.


The Association of British Athletics Clubs (ABAC), formed at the time of the Foster Report to act as a focus for concerned clubs, has just launched a new body, the Association of Running Clubs (ARC), which is offering an alternative to the EA membership scheme. The ARC scheme offers a streamlined and cost-effective scheme providing permits, insurance cover and support for clubs participating in road, cross-country, trail and fell running. The cost equates to around £1.50 per athlete per year and individual athletes’ details will not need to be registered – this is similar to the scheme which NoEAAA ran before individual membership fees were introduced. Unlike EA, the ARC committee will all be elected by the member clubs.


There are some problems associated with joining the ARC:


  1. Clubs which want to enter championship races will still have to register the relevant individuals with EA (although the ARC plans to hold its own championship events in the future).


  1. ARC membership will not be recognised by EA and therefore members of ARC only clubs will pay the unattached fee in any EA permitted race.


Thus, most ARC member clubs will need to register all competing athletes with EA as well, unless or until the new ARC system really takes off, meaning additional costs for clubs. However, the ARC has cushioned this blow by offering race organisers a 60% rebate on all unattached fees collected at races it permits. This means that for a club which organises a race that attracts say 200 unattached athletes, it would keep £240 of the £400 raised. For many clubs, this should more than cover the fees paid to the ARC. For the Valley Striders, which organises 2 trail races, there would be a financial incentive to joining ARC.


The ARC is reporting strong support in the South, with large groups of clubs agreeing a shift across to the new body en masse. This probably relates to the fact that they have not faced a membership scheme in the past, making southern clubs more resentful of the new EA structure. Support for the ARC in the North is likely to be more patchy in the first instance, but the organisation clearly hopes that support will spread across the country if it is seen to be successful.


Paul Briscoe has had some discussions with ARC committee members. He reported that he did not believe that the ARC actually intended to sink UKA. He felt their intention was to force a change of direction and emphasis, leading to a better deal for smaller clubs. For this reason, Paul believed that the club should support the ARC if at all possible.


Max Jones expressed concerns that EA and UKA might refuse permission for ARC races. However, it was pointed out that there are already many large events (eg. the “Race for Life”) which fall outside EA’s jurisdiction, making it unlikely that the police would refuse to support ARC races. Steve O’Callaghan, a former police officer, felt that the police would be happy to support any well-organised event, provided that it paid the going rate!


Max Jones then went into some of the history of athletics, prior to the formation of UKA. He concluded that what had changed was the move from amateur to professional status amongst elite athletes. UKA’s priority is the professional end of the sport and specifically those events which feature at the Olympics. For this reason, Max believed that Fellrunning was irrelevant to UKA and should go its own way. It was pointed out by FRA members that there was some chance that this would happen anyway. It was also pointed out that it could equally well be argued that club-based road, cross-country and trail running were just as irrelevant to UKA and should come under a separate body, simply making a contribution to UKA for international competition.


At the end of the meeting, members were asked to indicate whether, in principle, they supported the idea of the Valley Striders joining the ARC. A large majority indicated that they would support such a move and only two members were opposed to joining ARC. However, it was decided not to take a final decision before talking in more detail to other local clubs.