By Robert Taylor, Special to TrackAlerts.com
This sport of athletics is in a situation of individualism, which negatively affects the bargaining situation and earning power of a vast majority of the athletes. All the other major sporting disciplines, control the way their sports is viewed by the general public.
This is so, because the 'team concept' actually sells and it's owners who sees their team as an investment, have organized governing bodies and players associations, work together to protect their sport.
Track and field on the other hand has a governing body whose function seems weak at best, along with an external independent body that regulates against illegal performance enhancing drugs.
A set of independent athletes with no strong representatives to work with are then entrusted with the task, of developing and enhancing the value of the sport.
The anti-doping regulators seem to be more about themselves than about the sport in general. What constitute a positive test seems to encompass all and everything outside of water. Funny, but it seems as if track and field is the only sports with such a system.
There's an air of suspicion that hangs over the head of all the top athletes in the most popular events. Even the former head of WADA seems ignorant of the facts of the sport, judged from some recent statements made. It seems as if the popularity of athletics means very little to those who have the responsibility to ensure that it's a clean and fair sport.
The point here, is that the IAAF seems to lose control on how their sport is being portrayed by the major media houses. With team sports, the collective interests makes the winner and losers cooperate to make the sport as popular as possible. With popularity comes monetary benefits for all.
Track and field on the other hand increasingly has a concentration of athletes at the top who make significant earnings, while the majority cannot get sponsorship or enough earnings, to support training, nutrition and everyday living.
The athletes however, instead of creating a strong union to garner better financial earnings for many, sit back and allow the meet directors to dictate terms.
Since one or two names can bring big crowds or boost marketing of the event, these few athletes get the lion share of the prize money and the vast majority barely get enough to cover traveling expenses.This is especially difficult for athletes who come from countries that do not provide financial and medical support.
Until the IAAF, along with the athletes, come up with a formula to protect their sport, they will see athletics increasingly become a niche sport in most places globally. Needed is more positive media stories and increased earnings, so those in the middle or below the top can earn enough to survive.
With nationality being a major factor, those with the powerful media houses have nothing to lose and no condemnation from their customers, when they level unfounded and biased reports on athletes from certain nations.
The major money markets like Europe can be content with the European championships, because at least they will not have to compete with the Americans, the Jamaicans and the Africans there.
The major US sports organizations also will be more than happy, because they will have an even greater gene pool of super athletes from which to provide for their three major sports; football, basketball and baseball.
Athletes only perform for their country on the world stage during the Olympics, the World championship and now soon to be the World Relays, most of the other times they compete for themselves in meets all over the world.
It is due time the athletes, especially those at the top, join force with the IAAF to form a partnership and save the sport. If they can create a team concept, then athletes can compete as teams and accumulate points where money is distributed to teams. This will ensure economic bargaining power and greater earnings for those struggling to survive. It will also limit the disunity among athletes.
The difficulty is huge I know, but without a better system in place, athletes will increasingly end up in an asymmetrical situation where the meet directors dictate the terms at the athletes expenses.
The IAAF on the other hand, should know that protecting their athletes’ image is protecting the sports and the athletes need to realise that unity is strength. If both do not join forces and take full control over the situation, then they will continue to suffer the consequences of the system in place.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.