IAAF wants new Diamond League sponsor in restructuring
The IAAF is targeting a new title sponsor for the Diamond League as part of a continuing revamp of the annual top-tier circuit of one-day athletics meetings.
The Diamond League, which was launched in 2010 as a successor to the old Golden League, has not had a major partner since Samsung, which came on board in July of that year, exited at the end of the 2012 season.
However, track and field’s international governing body proposes to go to market for a title sponsor in the next phase of the restructuring of the series.
The Diamond League was the focus of a meeting of the IAAF General Assembly at the London Stadium in the UK on Friday, amid plans to present a new structure in the first quarter of 2018, which would be implemented in 2020.
The search for a new umbrella sponsor is part of a four-pronged strategy that also comprises a general overhaul of the global calendar, the introduction of an IAAF World Rankings system and a comprehensive review of the entire Diamond League structure.
When Samsung departed, having been forced to play second fiddle to individual title sponsors at some Diamond league meetings, then IAAF president Lamine Diack insisted that the circuit could survive without the financial injection, and that has indeed proved to be the case.
However, the federation is determined to raise the profile of the series and make it more relevant within the international calendar, and implemented various changes this year, including introducing a championship-style model with the finalists competing for a prize pool of $3.2 million.
Athletes earned points in the first 12 meetings to qualify for the final two meetings in Zurich and Brussels where $100,000 was on offer in each of the 32 disciplines, including 50,000 for each winner.
In a statement on the future direction of the circuit, the IAAF said: “The goal is to create a future IAAF Diamond League which grows the fan base, fits into a comprehensive annual calendar, supports all meetings, and delivers a prosperous circuit, challenging the status quo of a one-day meeting format which has broadly remained unchanged since the early 1960s.”
It is claimed that the changes have already borne fruit, with 282 million viewers from across 161 countries tuning in this year to see 805 athletes from 86 countries take part, with 39 countries producing winners across the 14-meeting series.
However, IAAF president Sebastian Coe is determined to go further to attract the sport's top stars and new audiences, saying: “Right across the sport there is a commitment to change. We need to give our athletes a compelling reason to compete and our fans a compelling reason to come back to our sport week in and week out. This is a revolution for us and it means facing up to the reality of how people – not just young people – are and want to consume our sport.”
He added: “Across all four [pillars of work], nothing is off the table. I have asked our teams to be open, creative and brave. We are in the entertainment business and we have to look at it in that way.
"Our sport is strong and we have had a phenomenal year of great performances and exceptional audiences [for World Championships events] in Uganda, The Bahamas, Kenya and across the Diamond League series, culminating in the amazing World Championships in London in August. But all sports are fighting for fans and thinking of new and different ways to present their sport or alter their core concepts and formats. We need to do the same."
In recent months, Coe has said that athletics needs to be radical and consider introducing formats that have been developed in competitions in other sports, including cricket’s Indian Premier League, which has city-based franchises.
He has also hinted at a shorter World Championships, possibly in time for the 2019 edition in Doha and the need to settle on a new structure for the Diamond League early next year.
Speaking to media on the sidelines of the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London last month, Coe said: “That is really important because we have to sell the broadcast rights, and the individual meet directors have to be able to sell their sponsorships around the new format.
“These are not easy decisions. It’s not about saying ‘well we have 14 races, maybe we only need eight’. It’s about the look of the events.”
The IAAF announced earlier this month that it would be establishing a new World Rankings system to come into effect in 2018.
The governing body signed a memorandum of understanding with Elite Ltd (All Athletics) to build, manage and maintain a new results and statistics database to support the system, which will help to decide the qualifiers for premier athletics competitions.