Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

When it comes to change, generally and sportingly, it seems the old adage only needs a little tweaking. "You can't please some of the people all the time, and you can't please all of the people some of the time. And you can't please all of the people all of the time."

Right now the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is trying to do two very difficult things. 

Firstly, to change and modernise in order to grow and thrive in future. But secondly, almost equally as fiendish, not to change its moral stance on Russian doping and making a rigorous assessment of the efforts being made in that country to ameliorate the situation and provide proof of it being accomplished.

The allegations that coaches from the discredited Russian regime closely associated with doping have somehow drifted back into contact with elite athletes have been taken on board, proactively acknowledged indeed, by the IAAF Taskforce's head Rune Andersen this week after the IAAF Council meeting in Doha.

It was back in November 2015, as the worst of the widespread Russian doping scenario was becoming clearer, that the IAAF banned the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) from international competition, allowing only individual Russians cleared to compete under the name of Authorised Neutral Athletes.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe and IAAF Taskforce head Rune Andersen presented a mixed bill following the weekend's IAAF Council meeting - change, and no change... ©Getty Images
IAAF President Sebastian Coe and IAAF Taskforce head Rune Andersen presented a mixed bill following the weekend's IAAF Council meeting - change, and no change... ©Getty Images

The Taskforce is seeking an urgent meeting with RusAF, and looking into the possibility of getting the intelligence operatives from the Athletics Integrity Unit, the independent body set up by the IAAF that now deals with doping concerns and anti-doping activity, to verify the latest allegations regarding old-school Russian coaches.

As virtually all of the remaining sporting world moves on behind the World Anti-Doping Agency's still arguable decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, pending the analysis of samples belatedly forwarded by the Moscow Laboratory, the IAAF  comes under increasing pressure. But it is just and principled.

As the IAAF President Sebastian Coe announced in his opening remarks at Monday's (March 11) post-Council meeting press conference: "We have made some pretty key and strategic decisions."

Around the world, for instance, 50 kilometre race walkers are now taking in the new reality that, in future, they will need to become, perhaps, 30km or 35km race walkers following the Council's agreement "in principle" to adopt the recommendations of its Race Walking Committee in an attempt to maximise the event's appeal to new and younger audiences, with a close eye on television viewers.

The question could be asked - how different would a 35km race walk appear for a television viewer to a 50km race walk?

But the urge to condense and make more digestible the athletics bill of fare is strong. And necessary.

And difficult.

Before the proposals for a revamped Diamond League programme were announced, there were swirling rumours of no distances above 1,500 metres being entertained.

In the event, the changes that will happen in 2020 to a competition programme that has been in existence since 2010 were less extreme than some had feared.

Instead of 12 meetings at which points are accrued for two separate "winner-takes-all" finals - held in Zurich and Brussels - there will be the culmination of a single final.

When two become one - from 2020 the IAAF will have one rather than the two current Diamond League finals held in Zurich and Brussels ©Getty Images
When two become one - from 2020 the IAAF will have one rather than the two current Diamond League finals held in Zurich and Brussels ©Getty Images

The 12 regular meetings - there will be one a week to avoid previous gluts and longueurs currently in the programme - will be 90 minutes long for the international broadcast, but the final will be around 150 minutes long.

That will enable it to accommodate the reduced number of disciplines that will be held throughout the season. The current number of 16 events for men and women will come down to 12 events for men and women, with the four athletics disciplines not making the trip in 2020 to be determined after this summer. So athletes in every discipline will be singing for their supper this year; and some will need to sing harder than others…

There will be no mixing and matching -  the men's and women's disciplines, when they are selected, will be the same, for the sake of consistency.

The venue for the final has yet to be determined, although there are suggestions it is more likely to be Zurich.

The two most pressing questions, then, once the Diamond League changes come into effect, are - which current meeting will get the chop, assuming one will have to make way for either Zurich or Brussels to be fitted into the "qualifying" sector?

And, of course, which four disciplines - meaning eight events across male and female competition as the programme narrows to 24 events in all - will be, effectively, relegated?

Tricky. Had you asked the question regarding meetings a couple of years ago, Stockholm - for all the unique historic beauty of its 1912 Olympic Stadium - was looking distinctly vulnerable. Against a background of poor decisions regarding sponsorship, you could feel the event fading over the last few years, the fields becoming thinner…

And yet, last season, it produced an exceptional meeting at which Sweden's own wonder boy, Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, aged 18, won his first Diamond League pole vault title on home soil - or rather in home air. Today Stockholm, tomorrow the Mondo…

There was also an extraordinary long jump from another electric young talent, Cuba's then 19-year-old Juan Miguel Echevarria, who produced an effort of 8.83m, the furthest seen since 1994, that was ruled out for record purposes by the merest breath of a breeze, with the following wind registering at 2.1 metres per second - just 0.1 over the limit.

So - when it comes to meetings, you never can tell. Promised world record-fests fall flat. Unheralded venues suddenly come up with the goods. As Alex Ferguson might say - "Athletics – bloody hell…"

But the biggest area of difficulty in all this will surely be the selection of four events that will, to adopt the image used several times on Monday by the IAAF's new chief executive, Britain's former Olympic 400m hurdler and world 110m hurdles silver medallist Jon Ridgeon, be moved out of the athletics "shop window".

Jon Ridgeon in action over 400m hurdles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Other hurdles now lie before him as newly appointed IAAF chief executive ©Getty Images
Jon Ridgeon in action over 400m hurdles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Other hurdles now lie before him as newly appointed IAAF chief executive ©Getty Images

For sure, the selection of disciplines will be annually reviewed. But if you're out of the shop window, how do you impress in the store cupboard?

And there are big concerns too over the other element announced for future Diamond Leagues - no distance over 3,000m in the main programme.

With the 5,000m, and 10,000m being two staples of the Olympic and IAAF World Championship programme, questions are now being asked about where these events are to be accommodated - and celebrated.

It turns out that each regular meeting will also have the option of an extra 30 minutes of programme - for domestic broadcast only, unless the international broadcast wants to pick up a particularly attractive race or two - to include events that are meaningful to that meeting, such as a 5,000m race - but not on the official Diamond League schedule.

An arrangement has been in place at the IAAF Diamond League in Eugene, Oregon for a number of years. Eugene spreads its athletics over two evenings, with emphasis on longer distances on the first of them.

There, it seems, is the way forward on this particular element of change.

But will the tail wag the dog? Will the new emphasis on 3000m during the season eventually leverage changes to the historic Olympic and World Championship programmes?

As Coe added in his opening address: "If the last four years were about time to change, the next four years are about time to build."

With other international sports federations now dealing - or attempting to deal - with insurgent, independent commercial competition, Coe is surely correct in stressing that change, however arduous, is always better engineered from a position of strength.