Honorary Presidentís Report: 2000 Ė 2001
Now that the summer has ended and the new competitive year is about to begin I feel it is important for us to reflect and look back at the past year. Moving into what will be my last year as president of the association my intention is to put in place a structure that will act as a platform for my successor to build a comprehensive strategy and development plan for the association and its members. We now need to start to build an executive committee that can move its thinking away from operational type tasks and begin to focus more on the long-term direction of third level athletics within this island. The advent of the new online registration and competition entry system is a good example of the type of forward thinking I refer to. It is an important first step as it will in time afford the executive members more time to focus on a development rather than operational agenda.
Review of competition:
Without a doubt the 2000/2001 university athletics season was one of the most difficult for the association for many years. The foot and mouth restrictions disrupted the running of both the cross country and track and field championships. At one stage it looked as if we were going to have to cancel all Inter-varsity athletics from the second semester. Thankfully our worse fears were not realised and the two host colleges UCD and Trinity were able to put on a full timetable of events. Can I take this opportunity to again commend both the UCD and DUHAC athletics clubs for their perseverance and the committed manner in which they approached the onerous task of hosting our two primary events of the year. Thankfully our pre Christmas competitions (Road relays & Indoor championships) were not affected. These were well organised and went off without incident during semester one.
If we examine the year in terms of competition we can see that the University of Limerick dominated gaining control of almost all of the team titles on offer. UCC men's road relay team were the exception back in November when they annexed their 4th road relay team title in a row, their 5th in six years. Without taking away from UL's fabulous achievement (a record in itself) I feel we as an association need to stand back and consider what action is required to ensure that the standards in the other colleges is improved. The demise of some of the former forces in inter-varsity competition is worrying and in my opinion needs to be addressed before it becomes a major problem or worse still irreversible. Standards at the front end of fields in all championships seemed to be on a par with previous years although fewer records were broken.† Further down the fields performances were less strong and in some case quite weak.† All of this leads toward an area I am going to touch on quite a lot throughout this report 'development'. The IUAA needs to decide on the role it intends to play in the development of athletics in the third level sector, devise a strategy based on this role and then follow up with a comprehensive plan that will allow us to achieve our goals. We have spend the last 10 years focusing on setting up the various championships and ensuring they were run fairly and efficiently. Now however the time has now come for us to look beyond this operational aspect of our role and start to look to where we want the association and third level athletics to go in the next ten years. With the formalising of the new Athletics Association of Ireland last weekend we are now I feel on a countdown that will end in our demise if we do not actively start to promote ourselves and create a niche in the Irish athletics scene for student competition.
Some progress has been made since last year, as we have been in discussions with other athletics bodies such as the Irish Schools Athletics Association (ISAA). Initial discussions have explored how we might both work together to help athletes make a successful transition from secondary school to college life without having to forfeit the joys of taking part in athletic events. I feel we now need to work towards setting up discussions with the Council of University Sports Administrators (CUSAI) and the Higher Education Sports Federation (HESF) re the improving the ongoing administration of all aspects of third level athletics both national and intentional. In time we will need to liase with the AAI so we can begin to benefit from the synergies a united body that now has the backing of athletic administrators on all parts of the island of Ireland.†
This is an area that has unfortunately been neglected over the past number of years. To date sponsorship deals have tended to be event specific and in monetary terms quite small. It is imperative that a suitable sponsor is found to allow agreed development projects to take place and also to ease the financial burdens of the association. We need to get to a point where we can say we represent all third level athletics on the island of Ireland and produce statistics to back up our claims. I have no doubt the statistics will show that we represent a significant market segment that will be very appealing to sponsors who see university and college students as their target audience. The web site can also add significantly to our national and international exposure through its content and as a source of up to date information on the activities of the association. I hope to continue with the new IUAA newsletter, the Johnson/Wadsworth Journals this year as a way of informing the members of what happening. Feedback on last yearís editions would be useful. We may also be able to put an electronic form on the web page and/or possibly email it to all registered members.
Finally on a different and quite serious note I feel it is incumbent on me to mention two incidents that occurred at last Aprilís Track and Field championships. I refer to the verbal and physical assault of a field event official during the championships and to the letter read at the post championship captains meeting that challenged the integrity and honesty of the executive and its members. These incidents unfortunately put a damper on what was an otherwise excellent championship. The association needs to examine its procedures for dealing with such incidents and also at the sanctions it should impose on athletes who assault association members be it physically, verbally or in writing. In both cases the executive, at our summer meeting, has agreed in principle to indefinitely bar the individuals concerned from association activities. It is I believe the job of the AGM today to confirm these sanctions and to agree a process for dealing with similar occurrences in the future. We cannot in any way allow the goodwill and spirit of good honest competition to be diluted in any way. Otherwise we will never attract new members to our association or develop third level athletics to it rightful place within Irish sport.
May I wish all officials and athletes luck for the coming year and look forward to having a great year of competition.
Eric M. Brady, Hon. President IUAA (Oct 1999-Oct 2001)