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Your Sport for Life

Your Sport for Life

Discussion of the practical implementation of European Athletics’ twin-pillar ‘Your Sport for Life’ strategy dominated the 9th European Athletics CEO Conference 30-31 March in Copenhagen, Denmark, which attracted a total of 89 presidents, general secretaries and other top executives representing all 50 European Athletics Member Federations.

Hosted with the support of the Danish Athletic Federation and the IAAF Regional Development Centre in Moscow, the conference was timed to coincide with the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, which, in addition to the elite race, included a mass participation event for more than 30,000 runners and neatly demonstrated how athletics serves both the high-performance and the recreational-fitness aspects of the sport.

Turning the traditional agenda upside down, the delegates were assigned to five workshop groups after only brief introduction presentations on the first morning of the conference. In an effort to ensure that the members of each group faced similar circumstances and issues in their work back home, the group allocations were based on the size and 2013 placing in the European Athletics Team Championships of the delegates’ federations

After examining priorities, challenges and good practice ideas for managing both high-performance and grass roots athletics for more than three hours, the delegates came back together in the afternoon for keynote presentations by the former European Broadcasting Union Director of Sports Rights, Marc Jörg, and the CEO of the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Patrick Magyar.

Detailed reports from each of the groups were shared in a plenary session on the second morning of the conference and these were followed by an open discussion with a panel comprising European Athletics Council members and the conference organising team.

“A frequent feedback from our conferences and seminars is that there is not enough time for group discussions and the important communication that goes on in that format,” said European Athletics Director General Christian Milz.  “For this reason the largest part of this year’s conference was allocated to the workshop sessions, which addressed our two strategic priorities, high-performance and grass roots, and it seems all the delegates appreciated the approach.”

In his presentation, Jörg analysed the television market in Europe, which provides the bulk of the funding for elite events and the work of European Athletics. He concluded that although profound changes across all the media create challenges and pressure, athletics has strengths to build on – if the sport as a whole can keep in mind that viewers want to be entertained.

“The finger on the remote control button does not care about how things were done in the past or complicated regulations or calendar constraints or sport politics,” he said. “If athletics can provide a product that is understandable and people want to watch, the partnership between athletics and television will be successful.”

Developing the relevance of the athletic brand for event spectators, media audiences and participants was the theme of Magyar’s presentation, during which he shared his experiences promoting Zurich’s Weltklasse, the top IAAF Diamond League meeting, and the 2014 European Athletics Championships.

“We need much, much more profound research and a better understanding of what the consumers think and not what we believe they should think,” he concluded. “But I am sure we can succeed if we work together.”

This year’s CEO Conference weekend also included a special seminar for 20 newly appointed Member Federation leaders, which took place on 28 and 29 March.  Led by Director General Milz, it focused on the role of the European Athletics Head Office in Lausanne and the responsibilities of the Member Federation

The next edition of the biennial CEO Conference will be in the spring of 2016, with the venue to be determined in 2015.

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