Coe says IAAF set to unveil new sponsors as London 2017's 'delighted' Warner appoints agency
By Callum Murray at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference in London
The IAAF, athletics’ beleaguered governing body, is set to unveil a line-up of “fresh and new partnerships for the sport in a few weeks’ time,” according to Sebastian Coe, the federation’s president, who has just returned from Tokyo where he was engaged in sealing sponsorship deals.
The announcements will come despite what Coe admitted was a series of “failures of corporate governance” at the IAAF, which contributed to the doping and corruption scandal that enveloped the sport and its governing body last year.
Describing the rebuilding process that the IAAF has been undertaking since he became IAAF president last year, Coe said that a new chief executive is to be appointed, “probably by the end of this month,” to replace Essar Gabriel, the French sports administrator, who declined to seek a new contract as IAAF general secretary as the scandal was breaking last year.
In December, Nick Davies stepped down temporarily from his position of deputy general secretary as the IAAF’s ethics board investigates claims that he was involved in a plot to delay the identification of Russian doping cheats until after the 2013 World Athletics Championships held in Moscow, and to try to veil the extent of doping in Russian athletics.
In March, Paul Deighton, Coe’s trusted compatriot and former right-hand man on the organising committee of the 2012 London Olympic Games, was among a raft of appointments of chairs of new commissions and advisory groups at the federation, taking on the crucial role of chair of the audit and finance commission.
Giving a keynote address at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference in London on Thursday, Coe said: “The challenge is to put the right people into the organisation, while at the same time allowing those [existing people] with talent in the organisation to prosper.”
Coe added that the organisation also plans to appoint a new commercial director by the end of the year who will lead a new search for sponsors, focusing on relatively untapped markets such as India and China.
The majority of the IAAF’s existing sponsors are Asian brands, including Canon, Seiko, TDK and Toyota, but, answering a question from Sportcal, Coe denied that there is no interest in sponsoring athletics from brands outside Asia (and, in particular, Japan), saying: “We do need a broader base of corporate relationships, although Asian brands have been very good for us. You will see over the next year or so a range of partners that is far wider than just Asia, although Asia is a massive market for us, including India.
“We will appoint a commercial director who will focus on India and China, but we’re also having positive conversations from the US as well.”
In January, Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant that is the worldwide commercial partner of the IAAF, insisted that it has “full confidence” in the governing body to implement the necessary reforms to address the crisis rocking the sport, which was reported to have resulted in the loss of a major sponsor.
The BBC had claimed that Adidas, the German sportswear giant, was to end its sponsorship of the IAAF four years early in the wake of the doping and corruption scandal.
The agreement between Dentsu and the IAAF runs until 2029, with the agency operating as the worldwide marketing and licensing partner for the IAAF World Athletics Series, including the biennial World Championships, and as the distributor of media rights on behalf of the federation outside Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.World Athletics Championships Meanwhile, speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Ed Warner, chairman of UK Athletics and of the organising committee for next year’s World Athletics Championships in London, told Sportcal that London 2017 has appointed a UK-based sponsorship agency which is about to “go to market” to seek domestic sponsors for the event.
Declining to name the agency for the moment, Warner said that a period of turmoil within the organising committee which led to several board members walking out, was caused by what he described as “differences of opinion” over “the strategy of how to go to market in a febrile atmosphere globally for athletics.”
Speaking during a panel session on governance in sport, Warner admitted that athletics’ doping and corruption scandal “makes the sponsorship market a lot more difficult. So I’m delighted that Seb [Coe] has global partners coming down the pipe. It opens the doors for national federations.”
Last month, London 2017 announced the appointment of a new co-chair and four new non-executive directors who, it said, will have strategic oversight of London’s delivery of the championships.
Sir Robin Young KCB, who headed the UK’s Department for Media, Culture and Sport as permanent secretary between 1998 and 2001 and the Department for Trade and Industry from 2001 to 2005, was appointed co-chair alongside Warner.
The previous month Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals for Great Britain, became the fourth board member to quit in a month, claiming her role had become “a bit too tokenistic.”
Managing director Sally Bolton quit in early February amid reported differences of opinion with Warner and UKA chief executive Niels de Vos, who is championships director. Bolton followed board members Heather Hancock and Martin Stewart who were reported to have quit “in disgust” at Warner’s leadership of the event.
In late February, Cherry Alexander, the head of international and televised events at UK Athletics, was appointed as Bolton's successor at London 2017.
Alexander's appointment followed the establishment of an independent board to oversee the organisation of London 2017. Under the governance changes, UKA has less of an influence in the running of the championships.
While Warner remains a chairman of London 2017, he now shares the role with Young, who was appointed by the Greater London Authority, the administrative body for the UK capital, which hosted the successful Olympic Games in 2012.
Warner told Sportcal today that the stability of the organising committee is now assured, with the appointment of the new board. Including “high-profile non-execs.”
In relation to the effect of the sport’s doping and corruption scandal, he concluded: “Athletes have been questioning whether it is a level playing field. The general feedback is, is sport something they can trust? For me, Rio [this summer’s Olympic Games]is a massive watershed moment for athletics and Olympic sport generally. Now we need to see that the great sporting contest story is not about drugs cheats, but about what people are watching. The vast majority of people are interested in the sport. The challenge we’ve had is keeping the publicity show on the road.”
The current state of the sport is thought to have deterred companies from signing up as sponsors of the World Championships until now, but the organisers are confident that the slots will be filled, and that the event will produce a small surplus.
According to documents seen by the UK’s Times newspaper, the World Championships are expected to cost £55 million ($80 million), to be covered in part by commercial income of £11 million, including £7.5 million in sponsorship.
The event is being underwritten by the UK government, and it is reported that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has sought assurances from the organisers that it will not be called upon to bail it out financially.
London 2017 board members were told in a report issued last November that the sponsorship target was realistic, while stressing that deals would have to be concluded swiftly and that a fee, said to be about £2 million, had to be paid to Dentsu for rights.Sportcal