Retired Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. Picture: REUTERS
Retired Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. Picture: REUTERS

Rabat — World athletics chief Sebastian Coe told AFP he wants a radical review of track and field to ensure that it survives as a spectator sport.

With the sport’s biggest star Usain Bolt retired, the International Association of Athletics Federations president said he was considering anything from franchised teams bidding for athletes to pop-up tracks in streets and football stadiums to attract new fans to the sport.

"Nothing’s off the table now. Let our imagination run wild," the two-time Olympic gold medallist said in an exclusive interview as he warned such candid discussions would be "uncomfortable" for purists.

Following the success of the World Championships in London in 2017, there are fears the next edition — in Qatar in 2019 — will not draw the same crowds or worldwide interest, particularly as Bolt hung up his spikes after London.

The Jamaican sprinter has been a shining light in recent years for a sport in danger of losing its appeal because of the Russian doping scandal, lengthy championships and overcomplex formats for spectators.

"We are in the entertainment business and we have to look at it in that way," Coe said at a meeting of African athletics federations in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

He laid out plans for a "strategic review" to show "what our sport will look like for the next 30 or 40 years".

The former middle-distance runner said track and field bosses could draw inspiration from cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) — in which players are auctioned and divided among franchises representing cities.

"I think we’ve just got to allow some really open discussion about what our sport looks like. And yes, maybe it’s cities, maybe it’s franchises, maybe it’s auctions like the IPL, maybe it’s the pick. We need to think across the landscape."

AFP

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