Following Fredrik Samuelsson’s letter on field sizes to World Athletics (WA) and European Athletics (EA) in March 2021, the President and Chief Executive of European Athletics have now written in reply.
The response from the EA leadership follows World Athletics’ commitment to work with multi-eventers on the issue, as reported last month. The case for an increase in field sizes is now backed by over 300 athletes from across Europe and around the world.
In their letter to Samuelsson earlier this week, European Athletics President Dobromir Karamarinov and Chief Executive Christian Milz set out the action the organisation has taken since receiving the original correspondence in the spring.
According to EA, a Working Group was established to analyse the number of athletes in different disciplines at European Athletics’ major championships; and consider the scenarios and consequences that would arise as a result of increasing numbers in field events and in combined events. The working group made a number of recommendations – not included in the letter – which were endorsed by the European Athletics Council at its meeting in November 2021.
The letter goes on to say:
“As a first step, European Athletics will increase the target numbers for all field events and combined events (i.e. Heptathlon & Pentathlon) for the next European Indoor Championships in Istanbul 2023. However, the increase will be gradual to remain within the framework of the current organisational and financial responsibilities.”
“Once the European Indoor Championships Istanbul 2023 is over, European Athletics will re-evaluate the situation and plan further adjustments, if relevant, for future major Championships in Europe.”
While the letter does not indicate the proposed size of the combined events fields for Istanbul, or the ultimate target numbers, the last two editions of the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in 2019 and Toruń in 2021 have been limited to 12 athletes in the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon. The last championships to include more than 12 athletes was the 2017 iteration in Belgrade, which allowed 16 places in each event.
As these workstreams continue over the coming months and years, it will be important that there are no surprises – good or bad – for athletes. Both European and World Athletics have acknowledged the importance of the athlete voice. The onus is now on the governing bodies to be transparent and collaborative in the way that they evaluate and develop options, and to ensure that combined event athletes have the opportunity to be involved in shaping solutions before final decisions are made.
For now, credit is due to European Athletics, and to World Athletics earlier in the year, for these positive steps. Let’s see what progress 2022 brings on field sizes, and on meaningful engagement with athletes.