Athletics chief Mark Munro: Writing off whole of 2020 would be unthinkable

Only 50 per cent chance season will take place

Scottish Athletics chief executive Mark Munro. Picture: Bobby Gavin
Scottish Athletics chief executive Mark Munro. Picture: Bobby Gavin

Scottish Athletics chief executive Mark Munro insists he can’t just “write off” 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic without it resulting in a significant blow to the sport.

Munro said “the effort being put in by our volunteers proves it means so much to so many” but admitted staging a track-and-field season is now “very much 50-50” and that contingency plans are being made 
for cross-country in the autumn and winter with some restrictions.

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In an interview with former BBC presenter Rhona McLeod, Munro said that, with some creativity, energy and goodwill, athletics in Scotland will come through the coronavirus crisis which has brought sport and many aspects of life to a standstill as the nation grapples with the virus and its impending consequences on normal life resuming.

Asked if athletics would be deemed completely off limits for the remainder of the year, Munro replied: “I would not go that far.”

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were the centrepiece of the season for the nation’s elite competitors, have been postponed, with hope that they can take place next year.

Below that, hundreds of athletics clubs across the country are dealing with the fact normal training and meets are not feasible in the current circumstances.

“We can’t let that [a complete cancellation of 2020] happen for the sake of the sport,” Munro told McLeod-Media.
“I think we take some encouragement when you see the work going on at our clubs, coaches engaging with their athletes and advising them, Virtual Challenge competition, education going on – it is good to see all of that.

“As the governing body, we have a responsibility to the whole sport. Yes, it is devastating that we can’t deliver a Scottish Road Relays at the end of March; a Scottish Road Race series through the summer with thousands of people running; possibly no [national] Track and Field Championships; and potentially have cross country affected for the 2020-21 winter. For athletics in Scotland, that is terrible.”

In a statement, Scottish Athletics said: “Championships on the road, and other events for spring and summer, have been severely hit – like the National Relays at Livingston. But we have to look at it all differently now and accept the whole world is troubled and affected.

“We have to make the best of the place we are in and let’s be creative and innovative.

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Munro added: “I can see Virtual Events continuing – they’ve been so popular.
“We are working every day on the ‘Exit Plan’ and refining it.

“We can look at what’s happening in England, over in Ireland, and we’re guided of course by the Scottish Government advice. From there, we can keep adapting our own framework to emerge from this. Before Covid-19 things were going fantastically well for athletics in Scotland. Not just high level performances by athletes on the global stage – we had seen consistent growth over a five or six-year period. That growth was evident in clubs, in events and in our own membership.

“There were 27 Scottish records in the indoor season at the start of 2020 and, heading towards the Olympics, there was a terrific buzz around the sport. So to have the situation we now have is devastating,” added Munro.

“But you must contextualise it. We have to be pragmatic. The world is facing this not just sport.”

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