Eilish McColgan’s 10,000m gold at Birmingham 2022 was a major Commonwealth Games highlight for Team Scotland (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Jack Buckner believes it is vital for athletics in Scotland that the Commonwealth Games are saved.
The future of the event is unclear with no venue as yet committed to delivering a successful follow-up to Birmingham 2022 – be that in 2026, 2027 or beyond.
UK Athletics chief executive Buckner for his part feels the Games must adapt to a different format with fewer sports in order to keep being a huge motivation for Scottish athletes and coaches.
Buckner was speaking at a Q and A gathering in Glasgow with Paula Dunn, the UK Athletics Olympic Programme Head Coach, in which they outlined the functions of the World Class Programme and the key responsibilities of Scottish Athletics (in club development and on the athlete pathway).
‘I feel the Commonwealth Games are very important for athletics in Scotland,’ said Jack.
‘We as a sport need to see if we can find a contingency because for many people competing in a Commonwealths is the pinnacle of their career – and a great motivating factor in the years before that. There is so much pride involved in representing your country and therefore a key factor in the pathway for athletes and their coaches.
‘I feel as an event it may need to go back to basics – and athletics should always be one of the core sports.
Photo by Bobby Gavin
‘I don’t have the answers but my own observations would be it has to be the right event at the right time at the right price. My feeling is a different format with fewer sports is needed. That is my gut feeling.
‘In terms of what’s happened, we (as a sport) should have seen it coming on the viability. It’s clear how financially challenging it has become. We need as a sport to look and find some kind of contingency.’
With UK Athletics having suffered significant financial losses in recent years, Buckner was realistic about hurdles ahead.
‘A lot of issues for us are linked to the wider sporting landscape and that impacts on performance,’ said Jack.
‘Across different disciplines, up to 500 athletes wear GB and NI vests over the course of a year. It is increasingly difficult to deliver that with growing costs and finances stretched.
‘We always want athletes to get the best out of themselves and to realise their potential. But we are realistic about the costs.’
UK Athletics Chair Ian Beattie was also in attendance and was joined by our own chair David Ovens, chief executive Colin Hutchison, and performance staff Mark Pollard, Allan Scott, Sam O’Kane and Pamela Robson.
‘The bulk of the performance development work happens at Home Country level and club level,’ said Paula Dunn.
‘The World Class Programme does not happen without that. Our WCP is funded by UK Sport and that is there to invest National Lottery money into competing at World Champs, Olympics and Paralympics.
‘The money is ‘ring-fenced’ and can only be used to help target medals at that high level.
‘Scotland has a strong tradition of bringing through top athletes and you see that on the WCP list – there are eight Scots on there (from 67) and six (from 41) on the Para programme.
‘We need athletics in Scotland to keep doing that.’
Jack Buckner and Paula Dunn in Glasgow earlier this week