Identifying the need - World Athletics looking to provide assistance to athletes
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe says the organisation is looking into ways to provide assistance for athletes who might find themselves in financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic and is calling on governments to offer additional support.
With the virus creating a global health crisis and bringing the sporting world to a halt, many athletes who would normally rely on prize money have lost their only source of income, and Coe, who says that the matter will be examined in greater detail in the coming weeks, shared that the organisation is, in fact, looking to provide financial and other support for athletes in need.
“I have already turned my attention to that, but I am not in a position at this moment [to say more]. I hope I will be, in a week or so, to look at an initiative that will help some of those athletes, and it’s not just simply about financial resources. It may be about advice, about how they re-engineer their own world, their own lives,” said Coe during an exclusive interview with The Gleaner recently.
“Yes, there may be the opportunity to tap into some pockets of support, whether it’s individual or our own offices, but we have a way to go on that, and, of course, identifying those athletes who have real need is going to be central to that because not all athletes are in that position,” Coe added. “But I have turned my attention to that, and I hope that before too long, and I can’t be too descriptive about it, but I want to be able to say something about it.”
Coe, who had a recent meeting with members of the Athletes’ Commission, which includes Jamaican distance runner Aisha Praught-Leer, is also hoping that governments that are in a position to do so will provide additional support to their athletes.
“ … We are not oblivious to the challenges that the athletes are facing,” he said. “In my meeting with them the other night, the athletes from the Athletes’ Commission explained the economic situation, and we said we would look at this together, so I am across it, and we need to figure it out.
“I really do hope that individual governments are able to support their athletes, particularly those that are in difficulties. I know funds are tight wherever you look. I was a member of parliament, a government minister for a time; I know these are very difficult times. You have all sorts of balances to strike when it comes to financial priorities.
“I do think that sport is going to be very important in the lives of local communities, particularly in social cohesion, and certainly, it’s about giving young people the opportunities again, and so I hope governments – local, regional, and national – look to do what they can.”
Meanwhile, Praught-Leer underlined the challenges being faced by athletes and welcomed suggestions.
“Athletes are certainly losing income, like everyone else, without the opportunity to earn prize money, appearances, and bonuses, not to mention that shoe companies seem to be slowing or halting the signing of new contracts. We are very much in the brainstorming stage of how it can be possible to help athletes. If anyone has any ideas, I am always available!” Praught-Leer said.