Berlin boycott in offing

Published on 13/05/2009


Top athletics stars, including Croatian high jump queen Blanka Vlasic, are considering a boycott of the opening Golden League meet, the Istaf in Berlin on June 14, over an appearance money controversy.

Vlasic’s Austrian manager Harald Edletzberger told German Press Agency dpa at the Qatar Super Grand Prix last weekend that “there have been discussions to this effect among managers in Doha” on the weekend.

‘The Istaf has come out saying they will not pay any appearance money for the top runners. We are not happy with this, because it is not fair to the athletes and also to the other meetings, which are paying an appearance fee. “So now we managers have sent a letter to the (world governing body) IAAF in this regard and we are waiting for their intervention,” said Edletzberger.

ISTAF manager, Gerhard Janetzky, told dpa on the weekend that talks are ongoing with athletes’ managers and attributed the news from Doha to the tough negotiations in economically difficult times.

Kenyan athletes are regular competitors in the Berlin meeting.

“Fact is that we are in tough talks with many managers … We pay prize money and of course we pay appearance fees as well. It is only natural that they are all playing for high stakes,” Janetzky said.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told dpa that he wasn’t aware yet of such a letter from the managers. But he also said: “The question of prize money is up to the meets.”

A boycott of the event could mean that the stars miss out on their chance for the lucrative Golden League Jackpot of $1m dollars (Sh78m) for the athlete(s) who win their event at all six stops of the elite series.

However, if no athlete manages six wins, the athletes who win five events from the meets in Berlin, Oslo, Rome, Paris, Zurich and Brussels can share 500,000 dollars (Sh39m).

It remains unclear whether the conflict could set a precedent for other Golden League meetings to follow — or even spill over to other sports like tennis or golf where appearance money has mushroomed into hundreds of thousands of dollars for top stars.

But with shrinking budgets and sponsorship deals pressing hard in tough economic times, top names may have to accept cuts.

Berlin has the biggest trouble of the Golden League meets to come up with a big budget to attract the stars. The meet is also yet to apply for the Diamond League series, which is to replace the Golden League from next year onwards.

“We have a budget of around 2.7 million euros (Sh286m), and 17 disciplines compared to 19 last year. We have slightly cut our budget for the athletes in favour of promotion (of the meet),” said Janetzky.

Edletzberger said that Vlasic, who missed the 2008 jackpot when she was defeated in the final meet, is interested in principle of competing in Berlin where she would likely meet German Ariane Friedrich, who beat her indoors when both jumped 2.05 metres.

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