By Cherry Alexander - UK Athletics Head of Competitions - as featured in Athletics Weekly
4th August 2008
I'm sure you will have noticed but last week UK Athletics announced a brand new principal partner in the shape of McCain.
As a mother of twin boys I'm used to seeing their name in my freezer drawer but to see it incorporated across a range of UK Athletics events for the next 5 years is a unique, yet superb opportunity for the sport.
Many people have asked me what it means for the sport, so let me tell you it is a brilliant time for a new partner and the areas of athletics it will support will benefit greatly from the association up to 2013.
For the UK Challenge (UKC) series alone it is a marvellous boost that will enable us to promote and run the successful series in a way it never has been. For those of you who don't know - the UKC was born out of the 2003 competition review which identified the need for a competition format and pathway lasting the season which would tie in the various levels and types of athletics event, from team events, individual competition, event specific meets and championships.
Year on year it has grown and athletes have voted with their feet to support this pathway - competition providers have been superb with their cooperation, including Bedford International Games (BIG), Loughborough European Athletics Permit meet (LEAP), BAL, UKWL and of course the very successful event-specific organisers such as the British Milers Club to name but a few.
McCain's support of the UKC will enable us to assist our top 'kite marked' events enabling a better use of technology to promote it - from online and electronic entry formats to electronic timing provision, and providing high standard meeting managers and technical officials to raise these events to the highest possible standard.
Currently - clubs that host any of the key challenge fixtures get support from UKA towards their organisational costs - McCain's support will allow us to increase these amounts as well as add support in new areas - such as awards to the most successful coach throughout the challenge series and a continuation of our popular warm weather training prizes for the top athlete from the UKC the final and his/her coach.
We all saw how successful LEAP was the other week - numerous PBs, SBs and a British Record - well with McCain's support we can look to turn BIG and the Birmingham Games into European Athletic Permit meetings also - helping to increase the competition opportunity in the UK, and ensuring that athletes can face international competition in their own back yard.
The summer series will not be the only benefactor of course. The successful Cross Challenge will benefit from increased prize money, chip (excuse the pun) timing and more support for the event organisers to ensure that the series maintains its kudos and continues to be an attractive proposition for television coverage each spring.
The Young Athletes League will also benefit, with financial support again for clubs hosting these essential fixtures to ensure the best possible competition experience for our young athletes, and UKA will continue to work with various competition providers to ensure there is a range of competition opportunities for the age group without the replication and over demand which could see youngsters tire of the experience.
All in all, McCain's principal partnership is a great development for our UK wide competition structure, and I can't wait to help the sport deliver an even higher standard of.