TheETG Position Statement:Format of major championship track & field meets…..NCAA Championship, USA Championship, World Championship
Track meet presentation. The in-person experience and the televised product. Improving and simplifying the presentation of our sport, particularly at the championship level is necessary over the long term as our sport continues to grow in quality and depth at the professional level. Over the long term, as much as we’ve resisted in the past, at some point we’re gonna have to move to a format for our major championship track & field meets where we place the qualifying rounds together as a group as if they’re part of a separate track meet, held earlier in the week. That, being followed by the finals on a Saturday and/or Sunday, held as if its a separate, stand alone track meet.
I’m proposing a quarter-final, semi-final, and final type of format where 1 or 2 days is designated for finals only. The quarter-final and semi-finals placed for all events in a Monday thru Thursday structure. Finals-only events such as the race walk, 10,000 meters and marathon could be spread across the weekend. Switching to a “finals-day” format provides opportunities for broadcasters to expand and deepen their coverage. And switching to this type of format inherently provides our sport with an opportunity to conduct our championship semi-final rounds as if they are a track meet unto themselves. Set apart on their own day[s] earlier in the week, providing our sport with an additional high value product to sell for tickets, television rights, in-stadium advertising, etc. And obviously in this day and age the rights to the quarter-final rounds can be sold to TV or online broadcasters.
Switching to the separate day format for qualifying rounds, semi-final, and finals provides for a better track fan experience, particularly for ticket purchasers. The track fans that purchase tickets will have a far better understanding of the product they are buying. Those that purchase tickets for finals will know that they don’t have to sit through qualifying rounds of some events, waiting to get to see the finals they are really there to see. Low budget fans can more easily choose a “semi-finals day” ticket and know that they’re still getting to see a high value product.
This format provides athletes and coaches an easier way to plan ahead for championship meets in every area from budgets, to tapering, to race day event prep. This format also allows athletes that are participating in more than one non-relay event to have days where they don’t have a final of one event followed by the opening round of another. They can get all the qualifying rounds out of the way, have a day off, then focus solely on their event finals.
High schools and colleges in the United States should also consider moving to this type of format.
In short, at some point its gonna be necessary for us as a sport to move away from the current model that scatters finals and qualifying rounds across several days to 2 weeks, forcing fans, TV viewers, and broadcasters to be experts at schedule reading to know which finals are happening on any given day. We have an opportunity present our sport in a more logical, easier to follow manner. We should fully embrace that opportunity.