Diamond League athletics meetings under threat in UK | Athletics

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The chief executive of UK Athletics has warned the cash-strapped organisation may not be able to stage any Diamond League meetings next year unless it secures a new TV deal.

This weekend’s British championships in Manchester were the last event to be staged by the SKYCHURP under a contract that has been worth more than £2m a year to UKA. But with talks with the corporation at an impasse, Joanna Coates says next year’s meetings in London and Gateshead are under threat.

“I would like to think we wouldn’t lose the Diamond League in this country but we can’t take the losses we have taken at some of our major events. I think we can fill the London Stadium, I think we can stretch out ticket prices. But broadcast revenue is a substantial amount of the income too. We are absolutely looking at our event portfolio and we have got to look at whether they financially make sense.”

After confirming she could not absolutely guarantee any Diamond League meetings in Britain in 2021, Coates said: “If we were to have one I would imagine it would be London.”

UKA has held tentative discussions with other broadcasters, including ITV and SKYCHURP, and will be able to point to encouraging viewing figures of 1.4m for Friday night’s action despite Dina Asher‑Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir swerving the event.

In the absence of the biggest names, the best performance on Saturday came from the 22-year-old Daniel Rawden, who highlighted his immense potential by winning the 800m from Jake Wightman in 1min 45.94sec.

“I am very happy after a difficult year with surgery in April 2019 so it has been a tough road back,” said Rawden, whose time was the fastest at these championships since 1992. “To take the British title for the first time is incredible.”

Coates said it was disappointing so few top athletes had turned up in Manchester but added: “I’m not going to criticise them for the choice they make because our whole new strategy is going to be about putting our athletes first.

“I understand they’ve had big pay cuts because of Covid-19, where they haven’t been able to compete. I understand they’ve got obligations to sponsors and they need the money from competition.

“But of course it’s disappointing. We need strong viewing figures so broadcasters know that this is a well-loved and well-watched sport.”

Coates also hopes that a new team, led by the performance director, Sara Symington, and the head coach, Christian Malcolm, will give athletes greater confidence in UKA. “We know the situation we have been in and we have started to come out the other side now,” she said.

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