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01 Jul 2020

World Athletics' new strategic plan: more partners, increased digital focus

World Athletics, the international governing body, has published its strategic plan for growing the sport between 2020 and 2023. 

Among the plan’s aims for the next three years are to double the number of overall World Athletics partners, both commercial and non-commercial, to double athletics’ digital reach and following, and to grow the sport’s overall broadcast audience by at least 10 per cent. 

The plan was outlined to the 214 member federations earlier this month, with the growth in broadcast reach to be achieved “through closer collaboration on how our sport is delivered and presented, including greater investment in innovation and technology.”

The digital focus, meanwhile, will be achieved through partnering with social media platforms, driving traffic through platforms such as YouTube, and by “focusing on creative content that engages as well as attracts”, according to the plan.

As well as doubling its commercial partner count, the plan also emphasises the need to “add value to our existing partnerships, with sponsors (and) event organisers."

The plan, which has its mission as ’Grow, Inspire, Lead’, spreads its goals across four main categories - participation, people, fans and partnerships. 

In terms of events, the plan sets out a goal to establish cross-country as an Olympic sport, and also to create biennial road and off-road World Athletics Championships. 

These latter two competitions are estimated to be ready for delivery by 2023, and the same year is when World Athletics is aiming to confirm cross-country as an Olympic sport. 

These championships will help “create a critical mass of world class competitions in all our continents”, according to the plan, which also mentions that in order to attract more bidders to host these events, “we will reform our event hosting protocols and requirements to align with city agendas.”

World Athletics says it aims to “extend the reach of the Olympic Games by working with the International Olympic Committee and other stakeholders to include cross-country within the athletics programme.”

This strategic plan will become a part of the overall one-year world plan, which will likely be signed off at World Athletics’ 2021 congress. 

The plan’s “overarching vision and purpose is to grow the whole of sport”, according to its executive summary.

Seb Coe, the organisation’s president, said: “This is an exceptional body of work that brings together all the great things we coo as a global sport body, with a laser sharp focus on doing it better… It is exactly the type of roadmap our sport needs.”

With reference to the ongoing sporting shutdown caused by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, the report stated: “In many ways, there has never been a better time for us to recognise and built on what our sport can offer.”

Earlier this week, World Athletics signed a legacy-style partnership with parkrun, the multi-national organisation which organises large-scale weekly runs. 

Parkrun, founded in 2004 in London and now spanning 20 countries with its events, will work with the governing body to create a series of permanent parkrun events in cities and countries which are set to stage top-tier World Athletics Championships in the coming years. These include the World Championships in Oregon in 2022, and in Budapest in 2023. 

World Athletics will work to provide support from the country’s or city’s government for these events.