POSTED: November 5th 2008

UK network just right for McCain

Perri Shakes Drayton, Tasha Danvers and Sally Gunnell: track stars heading up a new project  for UK Athletics at Lee Valley  / Image: McCain
Perri Shakes Drayton, Tasha Danvers and Sally Gunnell: track stars heading up a new project for UK Athletics at Lee Valley / Image: McCain

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Maybe this was an awkward day for a company named McCain to be promoting a positive message about networking but UK Athletics had no problem talking up the latest project with its principal partner.

Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell, winner of the women’s 400m hurdles in Barcelona in 1992, was on hand at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre to help launch a scheme to improve coaching, coordination and communication at grassroots.

UK Athletics in association with England Athletics and supported by Sport England is creating a web of “athletics networks” across the country in which McCain Foods is investing £5m over the next five years.

The aim of the scheme is to bring together athletics clubs within local communities to their mutual benefit.

Gunnell said: “This is exactly what we need to encourage and help youngsters who want to enjoy their athletics but maybe don’t have adequate facilities or coaching support in their local club. Now I’m a mum, taking my own boys to my local track and seeing how well some other sports are organised at grassroots level, it makes me realise how much needs to be done in athletics.

"This really is an important step forward, especially when there is so much competition for young people’s time and interests. ”

Better use of coaching

The first year of the project will see £300,000 awarded in grants of up to £50,000 per annum to the first 20 clubs in a pilot stage to pay for equipment, facilities and coaching staff. The grants should help neighbouring local and regional clubs make better use of coaching expertise and facilities. Further funding will become available for a second wave of 30 clubs in 2009.

Mike Summers, chief executive of England Athletics, said: “We are totally committed to placing the clubs at the forefront of our delivery – that is how we can build a sustainable legacy for the sport in our communities.”

Bill Bartlett, of McCain Foods, explaining his company’s support for the scheme, said: “Hopefully the programme will leave some form of legacy for the structure of grassroots athletics and, hopefully, even pop out an Olympic champion for 2016 or 2020.”

UK Athletics is the national governing body while England Athletics governs the sport in England specifically and is core funded through Sport England, the government lottery funding distributor.

Picture (right): Sally Gunnell back in the hurdling groove at Lee Valley / Image: McCain

Keywords · McCain Foods · UK Athletics · Sally Gunnell · Lee Valley Athletics Centre · England Athletics · Sport England

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