As we gather together for our annual open meeting we are able to commemorate the life of Leo Carroll who so proudly became our President in 2015 but sadly passed away earlier this year. We acknowledge his athletic achievements and his work and dedication as an official and administrator. He will be missed by all of us as will all of those close to our sport in the North who are no longer with us.
Although the relatively newly titled Northern Athletics enters its 10th year we remind ourselves that our history goes back to our predecessors of 1879 vintage and our current guise is merely a continuation of that great tradition. It is one of integrity, quality and consistency. Such assets have been typified in the last twelve months when there has been increased support for us in terms of the number of athletes competing at our championships not only on the road and country but significantly across the board on the track especially our indoor competitions.
The pressure on track and field to justify itself financially in difficult times has been there for some time but I am pleased to report that the tide is turning and it is currently supporting itself in its own right. We must however remain vigilant but whilst we produce quality in organisation and promotion and our athletes respond providing great competition there is no reason why this progress cannot continue. I give a special thanks here to Malcolm Fletcher our track and field meeting manager and all round organiser who provides leadership and support to all those involved. On the endurance front I should also mention the work of Steve Gaines which this year included him fronting for the North the National Cross Country Championships at Donnington.
This year has been an Olympic year and we should mention particularly Jessica Ennis- Hill who, having supported North of England events throughout her career including this year, has retired with a glorious record at the top including gold in London and silver in Rio. Sophie Hitchon became Britain’s first ever Olympic medallist in the hammer with a bronze whilst Anyika Onuora was our 400m relay bronze medallist. The Brownlee brothers were brilliant taking gold and silver in the triathlon. Well done to all our Olympians.
I am grateful to all the Board for their support and guidance making this past year as Chairman an enjoyable one even though there have been many challenges we have had to overcome especially our financial planning for the future. Special thanks here to Nigel Orr our reliable treasurer and of course Judith and Pat based at our friendly office in Dewsbury. They provide that personal touch for all callers something that must be preserved and yet can sadly be missing in larger organisations.
With everything that is done to ensure we provide great competition at area level in the North an outsider might think that our future must be secure and our national governing body without hesitation would support us in any way possible. Northern Athletics has tried over the past few years to negotiate an arrangement whereby the areas would receive grants from England Athletics to ensure that we can break even without diminishing our reserves. Despite lengthy meetings, when the position of the areas could not have been made any clearer, a meeting in September 2016 resulted in our governing body failing to give any long term assurances. The only offer made was for six months funding at the current level to cover six months from April 2017, an offer that has since been withdrawn.
As Chairman of Northern Athletics along with the Board and in conjunction with the Midlands and the South we have now embarked on another vital survey which will give the areas some detailed answers from you to very specific questions. Armed with the results and taking into account the current position of England Athletics we then intend to plan for our long term future. This will hopefully ensure we will still be here for many years to come continuing to be that vital pathway for athletes and officials from grassroots to national level.
There comes a point when all organisations have to take their destiny into their own hands and if they are supported by those that value them then there is always a good chance that they will not only survive but flourish. We have reached that point and I ask for your support. I ask you to go back to your athletes and officials, your team managers and coaches as well as your club members and county committees and ask everybody to complete our survey by going on our website or via our Facebook page. Once we have your answer then we will have not only the ability to persuade but moreover the confidence to be bold in order to guarantee our future.