Problems for fell and road race organisers
Two worrying situations have been rumbling on recently in the fell and road branches of athletics, which show the pressure race organisers can come under when governing bodies don’t get their act together.
In road running the SEAA Southern 12-stage and 6-stage relays (set for 16 March in Milton Keynes) were ‘cancelled’ by local organisers Marshall Milton Keynes AC on Jan 13. Long-term organiser Mick Bromilow wrote a long message of explanation on his club’s website (since taken down, but available at the AW forum). It seems that there were terms in the new SEAA contract that were not acceptable – around levies and marshalling commitments. Despite trying to resolve it MMK claim that SEAA were just not showing any urgency to sort things, so announced that they would NOT be hosting the event, labelling it a “shambles”. [As I write this it now seems to have been resolved and the race is back on.]
More worrying is the situation in fell running. Following the death of Brian Belfield in the Buttermere Sailbeck fell race (in Apr 2012) the coroner wrote to the FRA after the inquest (in Oct 2013) reporting “seven Matters of Concern ….. mainly concerned with runner counting procedures and communications with race marshals” – to which the FRA had to respond. They did and revised/tweaked the Safety Requirements For Fell Races accordingly. However, these have been heavily criticised by individuals (including race organisers). On 15 Jan there was a posting on the FRA forum from ‘a professional Safety Advisor’ announcing his resignation from the FRA Committee in protest at their reluctance to accept fundamental changes being made. To quote from the resignation letter: “The Safety Requirements document has been gradually modified bit by bit but it has been like pulling teeth and there has never been an acceptance that the whole thing needs to be scrapped and replaced with something simpler, more modern, more flexible and which would ultimately result in safer, better-organised races and would massively reduce the legal risks to ROs [race organisers] in the event of something going wrong.”
This has rumbled on, with 67 posts to date commenting on the issue, including one smokescreen response from the FRA Committee. The worry for me is that it will create a schism in the sport, similar to the amateur/professional one of yore – as race organisers consider whether the ‘rules’ are unmanageable and the insurance not worth the paper it is virtually written on, and chose to run their events outside the FRA framework. [See here the two ‘flavours’ of road races – if you run in an Association of Running Clubs licenced road race your times will not be eligible for UKA Powerof10 listing.]
I don’t like seeing this kind of situation in either branch of the sport, but it seems to be an inevitable result of the fear of litigation that has been pervading society.
Good to get that lot off my chest – hopefully normal upbeat blogging will resume shortly.