BBC Bristol (9th November 2009)              

Darren Wrintmore - Avon Valley Runners - April 2009




The Association of Running Clubs (ARC) commenced operations on the 1st April 2007 as a governing body for road, cross country and fell running. ARC was established because implementation of the Foster Report removed effective democracy and foisted a bureaucratic, high cost, governing structure onto clubs and their members without any option. Road running clubs in particular saw no advantage for their branch of the sport and believed that the governing body would continue to have little interest in the mass of road runners and treat the sport as no more than a cash cow to fund elite athletics.


At the outset, one or two well placed individuals with vested interests, attempted to stop the launch of ARC but generally speaking, especially as it became apparent that ARC was a serious efficiently run organisation with a determination to enforce good safety standards, the powers that be in UKA and EA have so far taken a pragmatic and non hostile attitude to the existence of ARC.


A first task was to draw up ARC’s minimum standards for road and cross country and trail running. The emphasis has been to design simple safe procedures that minimise bureaucracy and administration for both the member club and for ARC itself.

Next the new governing body set about producing its own competition rules. Now ARC has rules for road, cross country, trail and fell running.


A difficult problem was course measurement. Much to their credit the course measurers believed that their emphasis should be to ensure that road running took place on accurately measured courses, regardless of the Permitting Authority. Following discussion with the measurers ARC races now have a separate race measuring system with their own course measurement logo. Almost all course measurers are prepared to measure ARC courses. ARC has recruited a number of measurers from its own members. It has funded the training and equipment of these measurers and by so doing has plugged some difficult to fill vacancies in some areas.


As time has passed the sport has adapted to and mostly accepted that clubs may belong to different governing bodies. Many cross country leagues include races organised under ARC Rules and many county championship races have an ARC permit. Indeed there can be few regular runners in the south or the midlands who have not participated in an ARC permitted race.


After little more than 18 months activity ARC has 140 affiliated clubs with over 13000 members. So far it has issued 200 permits for races during 2008. Interestingly its membership includes 5 track and field clubs.


ARC has forced important changes onto the sport:

  • Competition from ARC led UKA to reduce its race charges by 55%. A development that was enormously beneficial to race organisers.
  • Competition from ARC has led to improvements in the cover provided by the UKA insurance policy.
  • Competition from ARC has made it difficult for England Athletics to increase their £5 per runner registration fee which has exacerbated the financial problems that have led to the recent sudden and dramatic restructuring of England Athletics.


ARC originated from a strategic review by the road running representatives within ABAC. It is a totally separate Association but retains close ties with ABAC and shares many of its views. It encourages its members to join ABAC and hopes that those road running clubs within ABAC that are not yet ARC members will affiliate to ARC in the near future. Both organisations have had a positive effect in combating the quango inspired structures and policies engendered by the Foster Report and are leading the way towards proper democratic representation and governance for the backbone of athletics – the Clubs.  

Article prepared by ABAC and displayed on the ARC website
with the kind permission of ABAC.



UK Athletics so-called 'Road Running Leadership Group' (RRLG) has recently announced a new licence system and a virtual on-line running club.  However, if one ignores UKA's usual hype and spin and gives the proposals some more thoughtful analysis, a very different picture emerges - one of increasing UKA control, serving of certain vested interests and further marginalisation of clubs.


At present club members pay the entry fee set by the race organisers with 'unattached' athletes paying an additional £2 levy, which should be passed on by the organisers to UKA.  In the case of a major event attracting 50,000 unattached runners this should amount to £100,000.  In past months UKA had indicated that a significant proportion of this income was likely to be passed on to county associations as part of its support for grass roots athletics.


However, the new proposals are for a sliding scale fee for a race licence based on the size of the race.  No indication is given in the RRLG announcement of what these fees might be, but a figure of 40p per athlete for larger races has been leaked to their friends in the editorial team of Athletics Weekly.  Simple maths indicates that the 'commercial' race with 50,000 unattached entrants would now pay £20,000 - a potential saving for the organisers of £80,000.


In contrast a small club race attracting say 100 club runners and 20 unattached athletes would pay at least 40p for each entrant (probably more) - a minimum total of £48 plus for their permit.  Even if the unattached runners still paid an extra £2 levy each, the organising club would be worse off by at least £8.


And there is a big if.  Unattached athletes joining the UKA virtual 'on-line running club' (no doubt for a handsome membership fee) would no longer have to pay any additional levy to the race organiser.  The RRLG make great play of organising clubs now being able to keep all of the entry fees and levies but, if the on-line club is successful, there will be less and less unattached levies for organisers to collect.  However, they will be expected to pay UKA for their licence based upon the total number of entrants.


Clubs have much to offer unattached athletes but many runners are attracted initially by the fact that club members do not have to pay the unattached levy.  A runner who has already paid out a significant fee to join the UKA on-line club is far less likely to be willing to pay an additional fee to join his local club - UKA are trying to move further towards eliminating clubs and dealing directly with runners.


So we will see increased UKA control and the further marginalisation of clubs. But what about the vested interests?  The on-line running club will represent a huge database of runners which should be of great commercial benefit to the organisers of major races, and to those supplying athletic equipment and publications.  Does it come as any surprise that four of the members of the UKA appointed (not elected) RRLG come from such organisations, with no-one representing smaller club-organised events?


These proposals will certainly be of benefit to their interests and to UKA's, but to the detriment of clubs and their members.  Clubs should do everything in their power to oppose them.


ABAC comment.  The self appointed and UKA backed RRLG has done a complete about face and dumped earlier plans to levy unattached athletes and pass monies to County Associations. It is a tribute to ARC initiatives that swingeing changes have been made to  earlier RRLG proposals and even UKA’s Chairman, Ed Warner has acknowledged that ARC had provided the RRLG with effective competition. But whereas on the face of it the latest proposals are less onerous on individuals the effect on clubs could be devastating.


And what of the Counties? They no longer issue permits for road races and will no longer receive revenue from road races. It does not take an Einstein to work out that with further marginalization County Associations will disappear and with them the vast number of officials who make possible the numerous summer and winter  competitions for grass roots athletics.


And finally we note that RRLG plan to become democratic next year when the founding officers will be replaced by elected individuals. What a nonsense. Having put in place a scheme to marginalize clubs the representatives from the big race organisers will walk away safe in the knowledge that their plans are unlikely to be undone.

Article prepared by ABAC and displayed on the ARC website
with the kind permission of ABAC.





In early March England Athletics (EA) issued its 'Affiliation Guidelines' stating that it '……. requires the registration of a club and its members'.  The initial affiliation fee for each club is £50 with an additional £3 fee for 'each competing member aged 11 or over'.  The latter fee will rise to £5 in 2008 and further increases are likely in future years to pay for the staffing and other costs involved in operating the undemocratic bureaucracy that is England Athletics.


Many clubs are seeking guidance on how to approach this demand for their money and information about their members.  Ultimately the decisions must rest with clubs and their members but ABAC wish to assist this process by setting out the options available to clubs.


To affiliate or not?

Many clubs, particularly the smaller road running clubs, will be considering the pros and cons of affiliating to EA.  The costs to all clubs will be greater than their previous affiliation to the Territorial Associations with the increase to £5 per member already being introduced in 2008.  Who knows what the costs will be after that, with the huge expense of running the EA Regions to be met?  Reliable estimates have placed the cost at £40 per athlete. In Scotland it is currently £22 per registered athlete.


Understandably many clubs will be asking what they get from affiliation to EA.  Automatic insurance for EA permitted events is often cited as a benefit of affiliation, but an alternative is now available in the form of the Association of Running Clubs (ARC).  The ARC provide member clubs and events they organise with comprehensive civil liability insurance for a fraction of the costs of affiliation to EA and without all the attendant administration.  Details are available on the ARC website: 


For clubs who are looking for appropriate insurance and less bureaucracy this would certainly seem to be the best solution, providing members are not particularly bothered about competing in events within the UKA/EA system (see below).  In such events their athletes are likely to be regarded as unattached and could be subject to the usual surcharge on entry fees (currently £2).


Which members to register?

EA and UKA will undoubtedly insist on athletes competing within their Championships being registered with EA.  Unfortunately the territories (Midlands, North and South) in accepting their downgraded roles as 'competition providers' have adopted a supine approach to EA and from early autumn onwards are likely to require EA registration for competitors in their championships and track and field leagues.(although we note the SEAA rejected plans to affiliate itself to EA )  However, in practice it is likely to prove impossible to 'police' the registration system at most road races or track and field meetings, particularly those taking entries on the day. The Track and Field Leagues committee has stated it will not monitor registered athletes because of the additional work load.


Clubs wishing to continue to compete in Championships and Leagues under UKA, EA or territorial control should minimise their contributions to EA coffers by only registering those athletes likely to compete in such competitions, and then leaving it as late as possible.  The EA Information Sheet sent out in January 2007 stated that clubs will be excluded from team competition if they have not paid by September (with a reminder to be issued in July).  Any additional athletes can be registered as and when necessary.


What information to provide?

The January 2007 EA Information Sheet stated that 'core data requirements' would include e-mail, home and mobile phone number, events competed in, ethnicity and disability status.  Pressure from ABAC and others have forced EA into rapid backtracking and they now state their 'minimum data requirement' as: first name, surname, gender, date of birth, contact address, postcode, first claim status.


Many would regard most of this as non-contentious, although interestingly the EA Individual Membership Form still contains all their previous bureaucratic demands - quite probably a sign of things to come! 
No doubt secretaries of larger clubs will be salivating at the prospect of providing all that information (much of which they may not have) for several hundred members.


Even with the current reduced 'minimum data requirement', there are serious concerns about supplying members' addresses, since this will give EA the opportunity to by-pass clubs in communicating with athletes.  Given the lies, half truths and spin that have accompanied the discredited Foster Report and the so-called 'modernisation' of the sport, it is hardly surprising that many club officials and others at grass roots level have serious misgivings about EA's motives for demanding addresses.  Some clubs are known to be supplying their club secretary's address as the contact point for all registered members, although this might not go down well with the secretary's local postie!


In summary

As we said in our introduction, the final decision must rest with clubs and their members but ABAC's advice can be summarised as:

·       Affiliate to ARC instead if you feel your club has no need for competition under EA/UKA control;

·       If you feel you must stay with EA:

-       register the minimum number of athletes of 11 and over likely to compete in events which can be effectively controlled by EA

-       provide as little data on individual members as you can.



Alphabet Soup by Geoff Newton

An article which was published by Athletics Weekly on 22nd March 2007

Reproduced here by kind permission of Athletics Weekly and Geoff Newton 


So after a bloody battle “modernisation” has happened; but the conflict has not gone away. The fell runners are on the verge of breaking away, Athletic clubs have formed a pressure group called ABAC, Running clubs under ARC are gearing up for independence, and the pages of AW are still dominated by politics. Is this the fault of the “old farts in blazers” or the “dictatorial empire building career professionals”?


In my opinion the causes of the problem lie elsewhere. The conflict arises because (a) although the means of delivering the administration of athletics has been “modernised” the priorities have not been brought up to date and (b) “modernisation” was driven by the agenda of the Government  not the wishes and aspirations of the grass roots.


There have been a lot of changes in the last 40 odd years, both in the outside world and within athletics. Running has become a major sport for adults and there seems to be no end to its growth, spawning a multitude of new running clubs whose structure was markedly different from that of traditional athletic clubs.


Fell running has become a major discipline in its own right. By contrast track and field is becoming a minority sport for adults. However, track and field is still popular with youngsters.


Another trend has been the increasing isolation of the different branches of the sport. Before the 1970’s athletics was seasonal. Yet today we find that indoor facilities mean that track and field is a year round activity. Road races and multi-terrain races have multiplied so there is a wide choice of races year round. 


Before the 1970’s people mostly retired from active competition well before the age of 40 and often then became coaches, officials and club officers. Now the “masters” form a majority of adult competitors in many sectors of the sport. These same “masters” still play a major part in organising events and managing clubs which makes a nonsense of the number-crunching at head office which neatly pigeonholes a person in one role as a competitor, a coach, an official or a volunteer.


A trend which athletics shares with most other sports is that adult participants are becoming, on average, less committed and competitive and more recreational. There is more novelty and diversity and you can also experiment with other sports with high running content such as orienteering, triathlon and adventure racing.


The priorities at UKA have not changed despite “modernisation”. The sport is still administered myopically with the old track and field dominated priorities of the 1960’s. In theory the Policy Support Teams (PST’s) representing the various sectors of athletics should  be able to represent the different interest groups but  it would seem whoever they report to either takes no notice or asks the wrong questions.


However it’s worse than that. Superimposed on the old priorities come the priorities of the Government. “Modernisation” was imposed from outside not driven from within the sport. I have no argument against the aim of improving standards of athletics performance or good governance, but the good bits of the Government package came with a lot of other baggage.


Perhaps I should explain at this point that I have a stake in a number of other sports. I am in the position to see that the whole package of “modernisation”, from the hubs, development officers, club futures and Clubmark etc etc; is not something tailored to our specific requirements but is being applied across all sports in a “one size fits all” manner with varying degrees of success.


Let’s look at Government agendas. First of all the Government is primarily interested in sport which makes the back pages of the newspapers. This just reinforces the track and field domination of existing priorities. No votes in road running or fell running and precious few in cross country . Secondly, there is social engineering. That is  equity, child protection etc; not necessarily controversial but offering endless scope for exercising the third and most important agenda, - that of job creation.


We have lost countless industries and  the remainder have passed their manufacturing to China, our food is grown anywhere but in the UK, office work is heading to India. But people still need jobs. One source of jobs is sports and leisure. Here in athletics, competitions and clubs are currently organised by participants giving their labour for free. Job creation is the real reason why the Government would like sports like ours to be run by paid professionals not amateurs. A whole new career of “sports administrator” has come into being.


Currently the taxpayer and the Lottery pay for all this. However when the legacy money runs out, when lottery money is diverted to the NHS, when the unrealistic expectations of 2012 are not met, the Government will progressively reduce funding leaving us to make up the difference and pay for a bloated administration through individual membership subscriptions. 


Of course, this drive for a professionally- run sport can be taken further. Clubs could be run by professional administrators. Some running events are already being organised by profit making organisations. More coaches could become paid. There is even the possibility of franchising. The job creation possibilities are endless. The Government would be happy to see competitors reduced to the status of consumers who are faced with Hobson’s choice – take it or leave it. Already UKA has a tendency to act first and consult later, if at all.


One does not need a PhD to see that at best this simple sport of ours could become very expensive and at worst it will be unsustainable in its present form. 


It is there a way out? Managing the diverse sport that athletics now is will be very difficult, even in ideal circumstances. Why should the Road Running Leadership Group have any more effect than the Road Running PST? It will be like a sticking plaster to mend a broken leg.


My solution? Road and fell running are solvent and self sufficient. ARC and FRA should develop and run the domestic affairs of these sectors without contributing money (including unattached levies) to, or receiving it from, England Athletics (EA), UKA etc. Championships and club-based competition including cross country should be accessed by affiliating to the various leagues and county, area and territorial associations rather than EA.

Only competitors with international aspirations need affiliate to EA in the aforementioned disciplines. A streamlined UKA/EA should deal with international competition in all disciplines and continue for the foreseeable future (whatever that is) to administer and develop track and field, hopefully with real input from ABAC.


Geoff Newton has been a cross-country and road racing addict for more than 40 years.