England Athletics Chair Slams ABAC as Having ‘No Legitimacy’

February 2, 2011

The official representative body for all English athletics clubs, England Athletics, has attacked the endorsement of Tottenham Hotspur’s bid for the Olympic Stadium by the Association of British Athletics Clubs (ABAC), claiming the body has “no legitimacy”.

The latter organisation has claimed that retaining a running track at the stadium, as proposed by West Ham United, would not provide a useful legacy for the sport, instead backing Spurs plans to redevelop the Crystal Palace athletics stadium.

UK Athletics, however, strongly favours West Ham’s bid, maintaining that London 2012’s promise to the International Olympic Committee to maintain athletics at the stadium should be honoured.

Chairman of England Athletics, John Graves rejected the ABAC position, adding: “ABAC have no legitimacy – they are a self appointed lobby group whose views cannot be claimed to represent athletics clubs. 

“Across Britain there are some 1,500 athletics clubs, only a few percent of whom have any association whatsoever with ABAC.”

Graves added: “The Board of England Athletics is elected by our club members and we are unanimous in our support for the need to retain the Olympic track within the Olympic stadium post 2012.

“The ability to inspire a generation of youngsters with the prospect of competing in the Olympic Stadium in England Schools Championships and in England age group championships is an incredibly powerful recruiter for our sport and it is our duty to protect that opportunity for future generations.”

John Bicourt, an ABAC officer stated: “Saying that there would be a proper athletics legacy merely by keeping the track at the Olympic Stadium is a myth.

“The true reason for those touting the legacy myth is to save face over the wholly unrealistic promises made in Singapore by the Olympic bid team.

“West Ham, should they win the bid, would almost certainly demand the right to remove the track after a few years on the basis that the stadium is barely used for athletics enough to justify keeping it.”

Tottenham have proposed to rebuild the home of British athletics at Crystal Palace and transform the Olympic Stadium into a soccer-only venue which Bicourt said the ABAC viewed as a “realistic alternative”.