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Saving Athletics: UK Athletics agrees joint venture to secure sports future



Beset by financial difficulties which could have seen athletics governing body in the UK go bust, UK Athletics (UKA) has joined forces with the organisers of the London Marathon and the Great North Run in a bid to secure and transform the future and growth of athletics. 

UKA represents British Athletics with its purpose to grow both the elite & grassroots while organise events within the UK.

In 2022 it lost almost £2m while also having to pay out a six figure sum dealing with safeguarding cases. The organisation has also had to endure a swath of moral sapping redundancies.

It’s future looked bleak last year despite a sell out 50,000 crowd at the London Stadium in July – the scene of the London 2012 Olympics – for the London Diamond League.

Reported losses of a substantial six-figure sum were described as ‘disappointing’ even though UK Sport provided funding of £150,000. Low sponsorship & broadcast revenue meant the sell-out still made a loss.

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UK Athletics chief executive Jack Buckner explains why joining forces with the organisers of the London Marathon and the Great North Run will help them going bust.

In an effort to reinvigorate the organisation of athletics, the Olympics and Paralympics biggest sport by some distance, UKA, London Marathon Events (LME) and The Great Run Company (GRC) have created ‘Athletic Ventures’ – a three-way joint venture to deliver major athletics events including the 2026 European Championships in Birmingham and the annual edition of the Diamond League in the UK. It will also be the lead on any bid for the 2029 World Athletics Championships.

Both LME and GRC bring vast experience in organising major athletic events. LME organise the London Marathon, GRC the Great North Run; the most popular Marathon & half Marathons in the world.

Lord Coe, President of World Athletics, said: “This is a very exciting time for our sport. We are attracting viewers in the hundreds of millions for our World Championships and with the Paris Olympics mere months away the interest in athletics will only increase.

World athletics president Seb Coe congratulates Josh Kerr on his gold medal at the World Championships
World athletics president Seb Coe believes that it is an innovative initiative for the sport

“It is innovation and creative partnerships like this joint venture between The Great Run Company and London Marathon Events – with their impressive track record in road running – combined with UKA’s world class athletes, that will keep pushing our sport forward and make it an attractive proposition for fans and commercial partners alike. We applaud this innovative initiative and eagerly look forward to seeing the promising journey ahead.”

Jack Buckner, CEO of UKA, added: “This is a groundbreaking model for the development of athletics and for major sports events in the UK and we believe our new partnership, which combines the national governing body with the expertise of London Marathon Events and The Great Run Company, will transform the future of athletics in this country.

Jack Buckner believes that the venture is a groundbreaking development for athletics
Jack Buckner believes that the venture is a groundbreaking development for athletics

“Athletics is the most watched sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and millions in the UK will be watching the Diamond League at the London Stadium and hundreds of millions across the globe will be following the action from the stadium in Paris, putting our sport and our great athletes – such as Molly Caudery, Hannah Cockroft, Keely Hodgkinson, Matthew Hudson-Smith and Josh Kerr – front of mind.

“We pledge to build on this huge opportunity to rejuvenate British athletics, working alongside our Home Country partners, to restore our sport to the popularity of the golden days of the 1980s.”

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, said: “More than four decades ago, my father co-founded the London Marathon and Paul’s father created the Great North Run. These events have become the most successful marathon and half marathon in the world and inspired millions of people to become active.

Hugh Brasher believes that combining UK Athletics with the London Marathon and Great North Run can help deliver even more societal change
Hugh Brasher believes that combining UK Athletics with the London Marathon and Great North Run can help deliver even more societal change

“Combining the sport of athletics, which features the basics of all sports in running jumping and throwing, with the greatest road running events in the world is just the start of this journey. We believe that this partnership will, over time, help deliver even more societal change than our combined events have achieved over the last forty years.

“The entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of this new partnership has the potential to truly deliver for athletics from the playground to the podium.”

Paul Foster, CEO of The Great Run Company, added: “The partnership is driven not only by a belief in the sport of athletics, but also the belief that there is real commercial opportunity.

“We’re bringing together the best event organisers in our sport to create a new template for international events. We’re combining world class creative, broadcast and event operations with focused commercial and entrepreneurial vision to develop a brighter future for athletics.

“For the first time, major events will be underwritten by commercial organisations, not the public sector. We firmly believe that this model is the future for major events, and that the Birmingham European Championships will be a huge success for Great Britain, on and off the track.”

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