UK Athletics (UKA), The Great Run Company (GRC) and London Marathon Events (LME) have announced the creation of a new joint venture, Athletic Ventures.

Athletic Ventures is set to deliver the 2026 European Athletics Championships in Birmingham and the annual edition of the Diamond League in the UK, as well as lead the potential bidding process for the World Athletics Championships to return to the UK in 2029.

Jack Buckner, CEO of UKA, stated: “This is a groundbreaking model for the development of athletics and for major sports events in the UK and we believe our new partnership, which combines the national governing body with the expertise of London Marathon Events and The Great Run Company, will transform the future of athletics in this country.”

Set up to be a new ‘innovative’ and ‘groundbreaking’ model, the creation of the venture has an unfortunate origin story. Its launch comes after the UKA announced a record annual loss of £3.7m in 2023, which was mostly attributed to staging major events. 

The UKA was awarded up to £150,000 by UK Sport to help host July’s Diamond League meeting last year, after it approached the funding agency for support. Despite the event being a sellout, UKA is reported to have lost between £100,000 and £500,000.

Now partnering with GRC, which organises The Great North Run and LME, which organises the London Marathon, UKA hopes that ‘Athletic Ventures’ will alleviate costs. 

Paul Foster, CEO of The Great Run Company, said: “The partnership is driven not only by a belief in the sport of athletics, but also the belief that there is real commercial opportunity.

“We’re bringing together the best event organisers in our sport to create a new template for international events. We’re combining world class creative, broadcast and event operations with focused commercial and entrepreneurial vision to develop a brighter future for athletics.

“For the first time, major events will be underwritten by commercial organisations, not the public sector. We firmly believe that this model is the future for major events, and that the Birmingham European Championships will be a huge success for Great Britain, on and off the track.”

The company will also work towards the goal of finding new commercial partners for athletics in the UK, offering opportunities from grassroots activities to national events and the UK athletics teams at major championships in an initiative that it calls the ‘playground to podium’ sponsorship programme.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, commented: “More than four decades ago, my father co-founded the London Marathon and Paul’s father created the Great North Run. These events have become the most successful marathon and half marathon in the world and inspired millions of people to become active.

“Combining the sport of athletics, which features the basics of all sports in running, jumping and throwing, with the greatest road running events in the world is just the start of this journey. We believe that this partnership will, over time, help deliver even more societal change than our combined events have achieved over the last forty years.

“The entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of this new partnership has the potential to truly deliver for athletics from the playground to the podium.’’

Despite this excitement, the fact still remains that times have looked better for the UKA, as its broadcast and commercial revenues have declined dramatically in recent years, It has been without a title sponsor since 2022 and the organisation is predicting a loss of £1.6m for the current financial year.

It isn’t all bad news in the Athletics as World Athletics announced last year that it will become the first international federation to award prize money at an Olympic Games, ahead of Paris 2024.

Previous articleZoneIn: From bridging gaps to partnering with champions
Next articleFPSM appoints C-level team to guide tech-based sports media vision