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Sebastian Coe open to the idea of athletics behind closed doors after Bundesliga example

President of World Athletics open to all solutions as sport looks to get the show back on the road

 Lord Sebastian Coe
Open to ideas: Lord Coe Credit: PA Wire

Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics, has suggested that his sport could follow professional football in staging events this year without fans.

Although athletics tracks can open again in England for restricted training and elite sport is potentially viable from next month, mass participation events such as the London Marathon, now scheduled for October, or those dependent on crowds remain unlikely to go ahead for the foreseeable future.​

The Tokyo Olympics have already been postponed to 2021, meaning the World Athletics Championships will now be staged in 2022, but World Athletics has announced a provisional calendar of 11 Diamond League meetings later this year, starting in August. Lord Coe is open to these being staged behind closed doors, depending on the prevailing and local medical advice.​

“We can’t be oblivious or tin-eared to what we are being told by local communities and public health authorities,” he told insidethegames website.​

“It’s clear that football is going to come back quite quickly with the Bundesliga plans. And that will be behind closed doors. I don’t think anybody is contemplating this as the ideal long-term solution – sport would wither on the vine quite quickly if that were the case. But that may well be a compromise we have to make in order to get the athletes back into competition, leagues finished, at least some kind of competition.”​

UK Athletics has already suffered a multi-million-pound blow with the cancellation of the Anniversary Games – its biggest moneymaking event of the year – and has furloughed a quarter of its head office staff. ​

England Athletics, however, has released new guidance which allows a tentative return to training. Outdoor tracks can now be opened at the discretion of the facility owner or manager, but high jump and pole vault beds, as well as sandpits, are not to be used. There also should be social distancing and no group activity.​

Kingston Mills, a former international athlete and now a professor in experimental immunology, believes that elements of athletics can return without spectators. “Out running, the wind is going to blow away the virus very quickly and the chances of you picking it up are very slim,” he told Athletics Weekly. “But a mass marathon, something like the London Marathon where there are tens of thousands of people congregating together, that’s a huge risk.”​

“If we are going to get back to competitive athletics I think it’s going to be initially non-spectator, which is easier to control in track and field than it is in road.”​

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