Professional track and field athletes around the world, inclusive of Bahamians, who are without sponsors and depend heavily on earnings from track and field meets, can look forward to financial assistance courtesy of World Athletics (WA) and the International Athletics Foundation (IAF).
A $500,000 fund was created by the joint entity and launched on Tuesday “to support professional athletes experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic”.
The announcement was made in an official release from the World Athletics website. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back a number of local, regional and international track and field meets.
World Athletics President and IAF Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe will lead a diverse group that will be assessing the applications for assistance. Those applications will be submitted through World Athletics’ six area associations. The Bahamas is under the jurisdiction of the North American, Central
American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC), which is headed by Bahamian Mike Sands.
Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President Drumeco Archer said this is a bold initiative from the World Athletics family as the majority of athletes depend on competitions for an income.
“Any economic stimulus that is geared toward trying to provide support for aspirants who are trying to make it to international events like the Olympic Games and the world championships, it’s a wonderful opportunity as it relates to funding,” Archer said. “The reality is that if you look at the percentile of athletes who compete within the World Athletics circuit, I would say that maybe only 15 percent live sustainably through their shoe sponsor contract and additional sponsorship opportunities. The other 85 percent really live from week to week, hoping that opportunities would present themselves through competition and small issued contracts.”
The group of persons who will assess the applications features former Olympic Champions, World Athletics members, IAF committee members and Team Athletics St. Vincent and the Grenadines President Keith Joseph. That group, chaired by Coe, will meet to establish a process of awarding and distributing grants to athletes. In addition, they will be looking at ways to raise additional funds for the fund.
“I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competitions in the last two months,” Coe said. “Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we’re mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic.”
The World Athletics boss said they are hopeful to stage some competitions later this year.
The Diamond League, one of the most prominent track and field series of competitions, postponed events in seven cities that were set to be held between April and July.
The IAF was created in 1986. Its primary mission is to provide charitable support to World Athletics and its affiliated national governing bodies in perpetuating the development and promotion of athletics worldwide.