Tuesday 20 February 2018

Athletics: AAI overhaul event management after shambolic juvenile scenes

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ATHLETICS Ireland has had to totally overhaul its event management system as a result of the chaotic scenes that infuriated people at the All-Ireland uneven ages juvenile cross-country championships before Christmas.

Children were left in tears and parents and coaches were deeply angered by the shambolic organisation in Coleraine in early December.

Lack of stewarding and bad course design led to some dangerous pile-ups and two of the races -- the Girls U-15 and Boys U-13 -- had to be re-run at a later date.

The event generated so many complaints about child safety, inequity and the AAI's organisa-tional skills that the association was forced to thoroughly investigate what went wrong.

And that 'Coleraine Review' has admitted that the event's proximity to the hosting of the European Cross-Country Championships in Santry a week later significantly contributed to the lack of adequate stewarding.

The review noted that there were "serious organisational failures on the day," but, most worryingly, admitted that "weak (AAI) procedures and limited documentation made it possible that such failures could happen again at any national champion-ship event.

"A day such as Coleraine could happen at any event, notwithstanding the unusual circumstances of Coleraine," was its shocking conclusion.

The report revealed that the previous AAI procedures for hosting cross-country events contained "no formal criteria for judging the suitability of venues, no course layout guidelines for national events, no formal check-list when AAI visits the site two months in advance and no formal 'race day plan'."

It actually judged Coleraine to be a suitable cross-country venue, noting that it had hosted the Ulster championships without incident a week earlier.

However, it said that its location exacerbated the problem of getting enough stewards and that one of the key problems was that there was "no host club and therefore not enough preparatory work was undertaken."

The report has produced strict new 'event management' guidelines to avoid a repeat and, noting that it is increasingly hard to get clubs to run events, includes a recommendation that AAI should offer financial incentives to clubs in future to keep them involved as hosts.

Elsewhere, Rose Anne Galligan (Newbridge) and Colin Costello (Star of the Sea) lead large Irish teams at the Celtic Cup in Cardiff this weekend, but the big Irish focus tomorrow will be David Gillick's much-anticipated first run of the season in the Aviva GP in Birmingham.

Gillick is coming off a training block in South Africa and traditionally only races once before indoor major's, like next month's World Indoor Championships in Qatar.

He had just one preparatory run before retaining his European indoor 400m title in Birmingham in 2007 and this race, against the likes of Ricardo Chambers (Jamaica) and Jamaal Torrance (USA), should give him a decent barometer of his form.

Doha-bound Derval O'Rourke, Kelly Proper and Deirdre Byrne are among the other Irish in Birmingham, where the involvement of Britain's world champions Jessica Ennis and Philips Idowu, as well as Tirunesh Dibaba, Dayron Robles and Carmelita Jeter, should provide top-class action.

Aviva GP, live, BBC 1 (1.30-4.30)

Irish Independent

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