Challenging times . . .but evidence shows we are back on right path

Wednesday 22nd March 2023

Photo by Bobby Gavin

By Colin Hutchison , Chief Executive

Summer 2022 may feel like a lifetime ago, but the great performances and the record breaking by Scottish athletes continues from the age groups all the way through to masters.

It is hard to believe that 2023 was the first full indoor and XC season the sport has had since 2020.

That highlights the challenge we all have faced individually – and the sport collectively – over the past three years.

Surviving that period has been difficult for us all, but I believe our community can be extremely proud of the way athletics in Scotland has emerged from the pandemic crisis.

In January, the scottishathletics membership was 20 percent above where it was in January 2021, and four percent higher than in January 2022.

The final club affiliation for 2022/23 is showing growth again for the first time since 2019/20. The recent Lindsays National XC had over 100 member clubs represented.

I believe the picture could have been very different.

But the resilience, commitment and determination from the clubs, coaches, Officials, volunteers and staff has ensured that athletics in Scotland is back on the right path to growth, development and success.

In recent months, we have been reviewing our strategy ‘Building a Culture of Success‘ and it has been refreshing to focus on the future and look collectively at how athletics in Scotland continues to evolve and improve.

Thank you to everyone that has taken part in our surveys and focus groups over that period. The insight provided has been critical to shaping the strategy and ensuring it remains ambitious across all the pillars of our work. The updated strategy will be published to the sport soon.

As we are all aware, the wider economic picture presents challenges for us individually and, like all sectors, there are significant issues facing athletics that we need to be proactive in addressing.

Changes to ownership and potential closure of facilities presents a significant risk to our sport and it is essential that we take all steps to work with partners to safeguard the future of facilities.

This is going to require a collaborative approach working with national partners, local partners and clubs – #SALtogether (again).

The new Riverside Arena facility in Ayr (photo via South Ayrshire Council)

On a positive note, 2023 has seen the opening of the new Riverside Arena in Ayr which replaces Dam Park.

This outstanding new facility will be a great addition to the Regional Facilities in the West of Scotland but will also start to host some national level events as well.

Our recently published National Facilities Strategy sets out our facility priorities over the next four years and sets out innovation in this area which will help grow our facilities infrastructure in a sustainable way.

This time next year, Glasgow will just have hosted the World Athletics Indoor Championships.

It will be the first time the event has ever been hosted in Scotland and this presents a great opportunity to continue building on the hard work being done by clubs across the country and will be a truly unique experience for the athletes, spectators and athletics community across Scotland to engage in.

As always, the 4J Annual Awards provided a great platform to recognise athletes, coaches, Officials, volunteers, clubs and groups from across athletics in Scotland.

It is important that we take the time to recognise the success and dedication of people across the sport who are undoubtedly the heartbeat of athletics in Scotland.

In addition to our own awards, there was significant recognition for athletes, in particular Laura Muir, Eilish McColgan and Jake Wightman, across Scottish and British sporting awards and also recognition for athletics volunteers.

David Cooney (Cambuslang Harriers) was the recipient of the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours and Jim Hunter was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Coaching Awards.

Members of our Young People’s Forum gather for their Conference with keynote speaker, Eilidh Doyle (photo by Bobby Gavin)

Congratulations to everyone who has been recognised during the awards season, and a final thank you and congratulations to all of you that have been instrumental in supporting athletes, your clubs and competition during an extremely busy indoor and XC season.


Tags: Colin Hutchison

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