Coaches are facing the pinch due to soaring prices relating to the use of facilities

For years coaches and athletes have taken it for granted that there will be tracks to train on, pits to jump into and designated, safe throwing areas to throw in. Now, however, that idea is very much under threat.

It seems that athletics tracks up and down the country are changing their usage policies. 

Our facilities may not be facilitating our sport any more. In fact, some of the changes could completely change the way coaches coach and may even drive some away entirely.

The track I coach at has recently decided to turn its athletics usage model on its head. In the kind of set-up which is echoed throughout this country, it used to be the case that I could simply turn up with my athletes and coach. The members of my training group would just pay at the door and we would get on with our session. The new system, however, has changed all of that.

It is now impossible for a shot putter, hurdler or triple jumper in fact any event apart from sprinting, middle and long distances to use this particular track without a coach being present and an advance booking being made. 

Even then, the runners may turn up at the track to find it booked out for other events. My local facility is far from alone in doing this, either.  

The changes afoot

Let me explain whats happening in a little more detail. At the facility I use, coaches will now only be allowed to use it if they pre-book all of their training slots. At first glance, this may not appear to be that onerous a problem after all, we had to do this in response to Covid when space was being controlled.

However, the difference now is that coaches will be invoiced monthly for their sessions. Theres a sizeable fee for using a lane, the long jump pit, the pole vault and so on. 

We are also supposed to know the exact times and precisely which facilities we wish to use months in advance. On top of that, the centre has informed us they need 28 days notice for a change of times and dates, something which represents an extraordinarily difficult challenge in a sport where things change all the time.  

The centre I coach from has also required coaches to re-submit their coaching documents, download and supply the British Athletics insurance policy, child protection policy and complete risk assessments. We have also had to identify which events we can coach.

Was an explanation given as to exactly why this information was required again? No.

There is an insistence that the centre is not doing this for financial reasons, but rather it seems these changes may actually be for insurance purposes. I guess ensuring the coach is more liable for the session would reduce the premium and the claim would be against British Athletics insurance in the first place. 

I have not been given a direct explanation for the changes, however, which does leave room for speculation. If it is about making money, thats not unreasonable in these difficult times, but should coaches who are amateur more often than not be made to fork out? 

Some quick calculations indicate that, under this strategy, many coaches will face monthly bills ranging from 500 to over 1000. Where will they find that additional money? This, potentially, has huge ramifications for the sport.

Opening the door to non-athletics use

With a pressing need to increase revenue, many centres up and down the country use their athletics facilities for non-athletic activities. Indoor arenas can play host to childrens birthday parties, gymnastics, trampolining, cheerleading, meetings, gatherings and so on. For outdoor tracks, football and other field sports can cause complications. Its therefore not surprising that many coaches and athletes feel their sport is being squeezed out. 

On another level some tracks charge additional fees to use facilities such as the long jump pit, as staff are required to move the covers. It certainly makes you think that things aint easy any more