Wednesday, April 1, 2009

California Relays Update

As more information has become available it appears that a shortfall of $100,000 sits at the heart of the delay. Now $100K is not a small amount of change to be sure, but there are meets in Europe that have negotiated $100K as a payout to a SINGLE athlete! So to hear that a meet is not being held because of the lack of that amount of money seems almost like a slap in the face as we sit here in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet.

What strikes me even more is that USATF has disbanded its "Relay Project" which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to run. Surely redistributing that money to a meet with global implications would have been a worth while investment. Word is that USATF will provide some funding next year, but given that the Relay Program is dead why couldn't USATF provide assistance THIS year when the meet really needs it? Because the last thing that track and field needs in this country is one LESS major meet.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing that I have heard with respect to this situation is that there have been negotiations with Adidas to move their funding from the Carson Invitational to the California Relays. Now as a fan that lives in Northern California, the idea of major funding from Adidas for this meet is very exciting. But as a fan of The Sport the idea that two venues are competing for the same dollars to run a meet is absurd!

There seems to be enough money for shoe companies, and others, to fund multiple meets in Europe, Asia and elsewhere! Why do we suddenly have competition for dollars here in the United States? Especially since we are talking about two PROVEN invitationals - one with over half a century of proven excellence.

Where is USATF in all of this? Focusing on preparations for the next Olympiad (which seems to be the primary focus)? I can't image that David Stern or Roger Goodell (Commissioners for the NBA and NFL respectively) wouldn't have stepped in long ago to ensure that this meet take place AND to settle any tug of war that may be taking place between a major sponsor of the sport and two venues! Especially given that we are only talking about $100,000.

Has billionaire Alex Spanos - the benefactor that provided over a million dollars to renovate the Sacramento facility so that it could host the Olympic Trials - been contacted? Or how about some of these major banks that have taken BILLIONS in bailout money and are in desperate need of some feel good publicity right about now?

Better yet, what type of contingencies does USATF, or major meets for that matter, have in place to safeguard against this type of situation? Does USATF have a line of credit that it can tap into? Does the sport's governing body have an Endowment Program that would build funds for this type of situation - or to create future meets or expand those in existence? And how about the organizing bodies of the meets themselves? Again, do we have lines of credit that could be used as interim/emergency funding to keep meets going? Has anyone considered endowment trusts as a means of creating long lasting funding outside of simply taking money from shoe companies?

I'm sorry, but if USATF can't help a major domestic meet raise an additional $100,000 to ensure that it runs on schedule, then the problems facing this sport in the US run deeper than those detailed in the Task Force Report. Because, clearly our fundraising "arm" is broken. That we can't make a phone call or two to keep this meet running THIS year is a travesty and an embarrassment. Apparently fundraising needs to be added to the list of concerns for track and field in this country.

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