European Athletics will have a new President for the first time since 1999 tomorrow as its annual Congress, taking place this year in Bled, Slovenia, votes on which of three men will replace Hansjörg Wirz.
Norway’s Svein Arne Hansen, narrowly beaten by 28-22 in the last election four years ago, has cut a confident figure in the lead-up to his contest against Finland’s Antti Pihlakoski and Jean Gracia of France.
The 68-year-old Hansen, promoter of Oslo’s Bislett Games from 1985 to 2009, will run for the European Athletics Presidency this year on a ticket of making “significant, sometimes difficult changes”.
Pihlakoski, 53, an European Athletics Council member who was President of the Finnish Athletics Federation from 2006 to 2012, and Gracia, 59, chief of staff of French Athletics and a vice-president of European Athletics since 2011, also acknowledge urgent need for change.
Hansen is targeting five key areas for change in his manifesto Leading Change – boosting Member Federations, energising and rewarding athletes, consolidating and reinvigorating commercial activity, re-casting the competition schedule and bringing more recreational runners into the international federation’s orbit.
The new President will serve a four-year term, but will need, for the first time, to give up any other professional commitment in order to take the job up on a full-time paid role.
Gracia’s manifesto, entitled Achieving Together Our Shared Ambition, stresses in its Vision section the need to make individual members, and national federations, “stronger and better prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”
Gracia adds: “We will be stronger together.
"We will leave no Member Federation lagging behind.”
And he highlights three key areas in work to be done:
“Consultation – decisions should never be taken unilaterally.
“Solidarity – we must help Member Federations build their development projects, and support them in their structural decisions.
“Pooling ideas and good practices – providing technical resources, sharing good practices, especially in marketing, coaching, education, communication and public relations.”
He proposes continuing to change the qualification process for the European Championships – “our top competition should not be an isolated one once every two years, we should integrate the top national competitions and create a circuit of European Trials.”
He also proposes to increase participation of European athletes in international one-day meetings, and to launch Teens Athletics in Europe and a European Running Championships, including a mass race.
Gracia wants to increase European Athletics’ eligibility for European Unon subsidies, and to include European International Association of Athletics Federations Council members in strategic choices.
Pihlakoski’s manifesto, Reaching New Heights, emphasises the need to increase European Athletics revenues.
“I have strong experience in the fields of sales and marketing management and extensive sports industry contacts,” he writes.
“I believe I will be able to increase the revenues of EA substantially.”
Pihlakoski cites the marketing company set up in 2000 within the Finnish Athletics Federation:. “So far €50 million (£36 million/$53 million) has been obtained for athletics in the relatively small market of Finland using this approach.”
He also proposes organising mass events in tandem with major European Athletics events, for instance a mass running event alongside the European Championships, a short European League of perhaps six meetings, and a European relay running weekend.
“Traditional athletics,” he adds, “is not doing as well in Europe as it used to do. Mass sports events on the other hand are prospering and growing.
"However stakeholders involved in athletics benefit too seldom from them.”
April 2015: Exclusive: European Athletics President refuses to confirm sport will be in 2019 European Games
January 2015: Hansen throws hat back in ring for European Athletics Presidency