LAST NOVEMBER, in the wake of sweeping changes to the Diamond League setup, Christian Taylor announced the formation of The Athletics Association. The triple jumper supreme explained, “We will fight for athletes’ rights and ultimately demand a seat at the table and a say in how our sport is run and how the sport can grow and evolve without ripping out its very core. At the moment we, the athletes, have no power. Yes, there is an Athletes’ Commission, but we need something independent of the IAAF/World Athletics.”
On July 16, TAA was formally launched, a press release explaining, “Formed in response to the calls from athletes worldwide for independent representation, the objective of The Athletics Association is to provide Track & Field athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights, and to seek an athletes first approach to our sport.
“The Athletics Association aims to engage in positive dialogue with the sport’s governing body, World Athletics, and their own Athletes’ Commission, but will of course hold World Athletics to account when necessary and challenge them if they are not acting in the best interest of the athletes.
“The nonprofit Athletics Association has been busy developing a number of support services and member benefits for athletes, including a hardship grant fund, training courses, and discounts on products. Details of the full annual membership package will be announced ahead of the full rollout in January 2021.”
The group listed 5 initial objectives:
“1. Lobby World Athletics and the Diamond League stakeholders regarding the changes to the Diamond League schedule that were announced for 2020. We will offer suggestions and alternatives that would include all stadium disciplines, and would benefit athletes and fans, as well as the longterm interests of this diverse and wonderful sport.
“2. Gain a seat at the table with World Athletics to command real involvement and power when it comes to decision-making in the sport, as we look to amplify the voices of our members and athletes all over the world.
“3. Announce the Athletics Association’s welfare charter, highlighting our commitment to improving the conditions for athletes across a range of issues.
“4. Solidify our membership package that will begin in January 2021 and will offer access to courses on issues such as financial literacy and life after Athletics, and also discounts on products.
“5. Present World Athletics with innovative ideas for the growth of the sport.”
Said Taylor, who will serve as the group’s first president, “I am very proud of the progress made by the members of The Athletics Association Board. Since its initial inception a lot of work has been put in to establish the right governance and longterm viability that is essential to do justice to the athletes we represent. It’s this that has attracted the commitment and support of the athletes on the Board. We have athletes from every continent, and a wide variety of disciplines; we are made up of Olympic and World champions, as well as World Record holders and continental champions.
“In addition to the board members, there are so many other athletes who have helped get us to this stage. World Athletics recently published a strategic plan, and athletes have been identified as key stakeholders. The Athletics Association provides a representative voice and a simple way for the sport’s governing body to follow through on their commitment. We are ready to contribute to the growth of the sport that we love, ensuring that athletes are part of the decision-making process. This association is for the athletes, by the athletes, and we are determined to make a real difference. We firmly believe that we can affect positive change in our sport. We are ready for the challenge.”
TAA’s initial Board is made up of representatives from every continent and comprises 24 athletes, with steepler Emma Coburn serving as VP. To see all the board members and their roles visit the organization’s brand-new website at www.athleticsassociation.org.
TAA has also agreed to a strategic partnership with Global Athlete, which it describes as “a progressive athlete start-up movement aiming to inspire greater athlete representation in organizations across the world of sport. The partnership brings together two organizations with similar values to collaborate on projects, share insights and drive change that will ultimately benefit the athletes and the sport.”
Canada’s Rob Koehler, Global Athlete Director General, said,“Global Athlete is proud to be a partner with The Athletics Association. Establishing an independent association is a critical step in enhancing athletes’ rights. It is so important for athletes to have their own representation.”
Said Coburn, “The sport of athletics needs to find a new and exciting path for success. This success can only be possible with real meaningful athlete engagement. Athletes have the desire to further grow the sport while at the same time ensuring the utmost care is given to athletes’ rights. Together we are stronger.” ◻︎