Scotland’s top athletes are not getting the recognition they deserve, say the two men steering UK Athletics.
New chairman Ian Beattie and interim chief executive Mark Munro feel there’s feel-good factor in Scottish athletics which the two men want to import.
But they say the likes of Jemma Reekie and Josh Kerr should be household names for their achievements.
“I’m not convinced the Scottish media make enough of those athletes,” Munro told BBC Scotland.
Laura Muir and Josh Kerr delivered the first individual Olympic track medals for Scottish athletes in over 30 years in this summer’s games in Tokyo.
Munro also pinpointed the likes of Reekie, Eilish McColgan, Jake Wightman, Beth Dobbin and Callum Hawkins who are all at the elite end of a sport that’s embarking on a bumper year, with 2022 bringing world, Commonwealth and European championships in an unprecedented six-week spell in summer.
“I look at the likes of Jemma Reekie, Jemma should be a household name,” said Munro. “She should be walking down the street and people should be stopping her. We need to make more of the wonderful world-class athletes that we have.
“There are five or six Scots who are really properly world class.
“Everyone knows Laura [Muir]. We should really focus in on the others and they should be household names within the Scottish public and across the communities. So there’s a bit of work to do not just in Scotland but across the UK.”
It was a difficult 2021 for UK athletics. They are still reeling from a poor showing on the track in Tokyo – the worst Games for a British athletics team since Atlanta in 1996.
And, with the subsequent departures of chief executive Joanna Coates and performance director Sara Symington, new chairman Beattie wants to tap into the success of Scottish athletics to reunite the sport.
Beattie said: “We’ve been really pleased with what we’ve seen in Scottish athletics over the last 10 years or so. There’s been a real coming together in Scotland with everybody trying to do their bit.
“Some of the work going on at grass-roots level at the clubs has been tremendous. The work of the athletes and coaches has been outstanding. To see two of our athletes in Scotland rise to individual Olympic medals has just been outstanding.
“I think that feel-good factor is something I’m very keen in trying to replicate throughout the UK, where we’re all part of the athletics family, all very keen to be working in the one direction.”
‘We need to make sure everyone is protected’
One area already being given special attention is safeguarding, with relationships between coaches and athletes increasingly under the microscope.
Sprinters Adam Gemili and Laviai Nielsen lost their lottery funding after choosing to stay with coach Rana Reider, who’s being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct. Scottish coach John Lees was recently banned from the sport for life for sexually abusing girls he was training.
It’s an area athletics, and Munro, take very seriously.
“We’ve been through a massive change at UK Athletics and across the home countries in the last 18 months,” Munro said.
“There was the Christopher Quinlan review, as we refer to it, which had six core recommendations and a further 23 recommendations.
“We’ve now implemented that and we have new systems, and policies and procedures in place. We’ve got new systems for reporting, something called ‘My Concern’, which people can report anonymously online. Since we’ve made those changes in the system back in April, we have had a number of complaints or concerns raised through that system.
“I think that’s really good, really positive. What we’re dealing with now is probably a number that have occurred over the last five to 10 years who are coming forward because they have more confidence.
“It is a very safe sport but we need to make sure that everyone is protected.”