5 November 2008
Thousands of people across the country will be given the opportunity to make athletics a regular and enjoyable feature in their lives as part of a new campaign launched today.
The McCain Athletics Networks programme launches today at Lee Valley High Performance Athletics Centre. This is the first of a planned 50 ‘athletics networks’ to be set up over the next year. The aim is to bring together local athletics clubs, open up the sport to a wider audience and provide people with quality coaching.
The programme is being run by UK Athletics and England Athletics, funded by McCain Foods and match-funded by Sport England. £300,000 will be awarded in grants of up to £50k per annum to the first 20 clubs in a pilot stage to pay for equipment, facilities and coaching staff. Further funding will then be awarded to another 30 clubs in 2009.
The grants will support clubs in developing a stronger foundation from which to provide effective coaching, strong community links and an improved structure. This in turn will deliver an effective and enjoyable environment for both experienced athletes and people new to the sport.
McCain Athletics Networks will enable clubs to provide free, high quality, taster sessions to anyone interested in trying athletics for the first time. The hope is that many of the participants will go on to join an athletics club.
Athlete Paul Larkins of Newham & Essex Beagles commented: “It is great to see this money coming into the sport and the way it is being focussed on enabling clubs to expand what they are able to offer. Clubs are so important for athletes of all levels as they give so many people their first real taste of the sport and work hard to develop athletes of all abilities. So this type of funding for that work is very welcome.”
High level support for the McCain Athletics Networks
Olympic champion and programme supporter, Sally Gunnell, said: “Support for athletics clubs is so important and these networks will offer quality coaching and a real resource to enable anyone who wants to try athletics to have a go and get into the sport I love.”
Chair of East Anglian club Cambridge & Coleridge AC, Neil Costello, outlined his pleasure at the prospect of additional resources being provided to athletics clubs: “As voluntary run clubs, we need support to help us to reach out to communities, to introduce more people to the great sport of athletics at all levels and then to provide good service to newcomers when they turn up on training nights. The network will provide clubs like ours with new ideas, training opportunities to develop the skills of our volunteers, investment to purchase new equipment and the capacity to develop stronger links with local schools and community organisations”
Nick Vermont, Regional CEO at McCain Foods said: “This programme is fantastic, as it will enable the development of the athletics club structure to effectively accommodate new recruits. At McCain we believe that families should eat well and be more active and involved in sport. Our support and funding from Sport England will help nurture and develop talent at grassroots level and help to find the champions of tomorrow.”
Mike Summers, Chief Executive of England Athletics said: "England Athletics is totally committed to placing clubs at the forefront of our delivery. It is in clubs across the country that we will build a sustainable legacy for the sport in our communities.
“We are therefore delighted to be leading this project in partnership with UK Athletics with support from sponsors McCain Foods and Sport England. This is about supporting clubs to develop the next generation of athletics champions and to do this, we must get more resources into local activity delivered by and between networks of clubs."
Niels de Vos, Chief Executive of UK Athletics said: “We are delighted that the work we have done in partnership with England Athletics and with the support of McCain Foods and Sport England will result in this huge boost for the sport at club level.
“It is essential for the overall health of our sport from grassroots up to elite level, that people get a positive early experience of club athletics. We are optimistic that this project will help us meet that goal and deliver a real legacy for club athletics in the lead up to and beyond London 2012.”
Thomas Godfrey, Sport England Commercial Director said: “The athletics networks programme will help UK and England Athletics create thriving clubs which will make the sport enjoyable for everyone. We hope that this will lead to a life-long involvement in athletics for many people.”