Changing the rules is not enough to raise European athletics
Are these rules good or not? Is it really what athletics need?
All-Athletics.com analyzes the experiences of the inaugural European Team Championships.
Last week-end 44 countries of the 50 EAA members competed with their teams at four venues at the European Team Championships while the other six countries (San Marino, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Malta, Gibraltar, Albania) had their athletes in the 45th team, the one representing ‘Small States’.
The concept of the one country-one team (no separate counting for men and women) very well received was. It brought more team spirit and more interesting competition for athletes, spectators and media.
Implementation of the ‘no false start’ rule was a success. In Leiria and Banska Bystrica there were no false starts at all while in Bergen and Sarajevo there were three disqualifications.
The rules in the field events - top six went through after two rounds and then top four into the fourth and last round - brought some excitement in certain cases but on the other hand several athletes remained frustrated to have travelled to throw or jump only twice.
The rules in the horizontal jumps – the fourth failure in total resulted in elimination - did not increase the drama, was sometimes strange for the spectators, and again, left several athletes somewhat frustrated. For example Blanka Vlasic could try the 2.08 only once in Banska Bystrica as she had already had three failures at other heights earlier. She might have produced a fantastic result if the competition was held with ‘normal’ rules.
Several athletes expressed their dislike of these rules. For example Russian pole vaulter Yuliya Golubchikova said she was absolutely not happy with these rules as instead of concentrating on clearing the next height and trying to go as high as possible, they had to count their failures at smaller heights.
The rule in the longer distance races - taking out the last runners after certain number of laps -was quite absurd. As it had been expected by experts, at the first ‘cut’, when a large pack of runners sprinted towards the finish-line it was not only rather difficult to determine who was the last one at the line, but more importantly it created very dangerous situations for the runners. Obviously the very first runners did not push the pace, while the ones at the back started to sprint; leaving no space for the others to move. Sometimes ‘innocent’ runners were disqualified and we even had a quite big fall of runners as well.
On top of it these races were practically killed for most runners by the hectic pace.
The motivation of the rule-makers is to be appreciated, but the way it was implemented was far from professional.
Nevertheless Hansjörg Wirz, President of the European Athletics Association welcomed the new rules.
"I am very happy with the way the regulations were received," said President Wirz after the awards ceremony in Leiria, Portugal, where Germany claimed the title of European Team Champions. "European Athletics has shown it is leading the way in making forward-thinking changes to sustain the interest in athletics among TV viewers and supporters and the reaction overall was positive.”
"We will now enter a consultancy phase and as always try to improve the championships for next year. We are planning to get feedback from all our stakeholders including TV, media, athletes, officials and spectators in an effort to continuously improve the event and make it more attractive for a wider audience," said Wirz.
Well, here is one feedback: in our view the only real success was the no false start rule. That is one that should be introduced worldwide.
Some aspects of the rules in the field events could be used with much fine tuning, while the 'cut-off' rule in the distance events is to be quickly forgotten.
However to maintain and raise the level of European athletics, it is not enough to ‘play’ with the rules. Organizers of the international meetings in Europe should consider the ‘automatic’ invitation of certain number of European athletes in their meetings. Nowadays we can see meetings where in some running events there are very few or no European runners at all.
Also, European athletes need to be even more promoted in Europe (Gentlemen, have a look and use the All-Athletics European Rankings!).
Of course the same applies for the other continents. Can you imagine a meeting in the USA where in an event there are no US athletes? Can a meeting be successful in Australia without their best athletes on track? Could anyone really believe that the fans are not interested in the top South-American athletes' participation in an international meeting on a South-American soil? Of course they are! So why should it be different in Europe?
If there will be no progression in these – and several other – areas than no need to think about rule innovations.
With using the following sources:
EME News, RusAthletics.com, EAA website