UK Athletics is currently distributing a survey to gather information on the issue of equalising cross country distances. They sent out copies of the proposed survey to the Home Countries to be circulated to those parties with an interest in the sport of cross country. Northern Athletics expressed our concerns to Donna Fraser in an email dated 15th December.

Northern Athletics’s position was similar to that of John Temperton and the ECCA outlined in an e mail to Donna Fraser particularly challenging the questions within their survey and the skewed nature of it. Both organisations were expressing the view that the way forward should be decided and agreed by cross country athletes, their clubs and the organisers involved in the cross country events that could be affected.

We have major concerns that the type of consultation outlined, will take into account the views of those who have no involvement or understanding of the events that may be affected.

The leagues, county, area and national championships all use equal distances for U11, U13 and U15 age groups and have done for the last 10 years or so. We appreciate that it is right to consult with and involve those athletes who will hopefully stay in the sport and become active competitors at junior and senior levels and beyond. However it is worth remembering that the current distances used, were introduced by the organisers and governing bodies of the separate men’s and women’s events and therefore decisions should be made by those who are actively involved rather than a general survey to all. A decision based on a general survey could lead to further dissatisfaction amongst those who work the hardest at grassroots to promote the increasingly successful sport of cross country.

Northern Athletics plan to issue a survey to all our affiliated clubs in January, to get the views of those who compete or are involved. We plan to work with the league & county organisers also within the North, to share the views expressed in the survey and work towards supporting the decisions that the club survey produces. We are concerned that there has already been a decision made at UKA to equalise distances. Donna Fraser’s reply to Northern Athletics stated “we are at the point where it isn’t the question of whether there should be equal access for all participants in cross country, but is the simple view of how equal access can be achieved.” The ECCA have still to receive a reply to their e mail.

We at Northern Athletics have grave concerns that the survey will not be representative either of the real issues and concerns or reflect the genuine views of the cross country competitors. We are aware that there are many influential voices as well as many at our grassroots stating that the status quo should not be altered. We believe our role is to provide Championship events which meet the requirements of our affiliated clubs, athletes and coaches. We await the results of the UKA driven survey but we also plan to get feedback from our 170 affiliated clubs and our athletes as to what they want us to deliver.

There are now initial discussions taking place amongst the major cross country championship providers around issues as to the future management and indeed governance of our unique sport of cross country whose origins go back to the 19th Century. Its history, traditions and its immense success right up to the present day will not be given away without the consent of the overwhelming majority.

Tony Wood, Steve Gaines & Arwel Williams