World Athletics unveils $500,000 athlete support fund

Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi will sit on the working group for World Athletics' relief fund (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

World Athletics has launched a relief fund worth a total of $500,000 (€461,000) to support athletes throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund was established in collaboration with the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) – the charitable arm of World Athletics – and is intended to offer financial assistance to assistance to track and field athletes who have lost most or all of their income due to the suspension of sporting events during the coronavirus outbreak.

The IAF has allocated resources from its budgets for 2020 and 2021 to the fund, with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe set to chair a working group that will assess applications for assistance.

The group, which also includes representation from the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission in 1500m world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, will meet virtually this week to discuss the raising of additional funds. 

Coe said: “I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months.

“Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we’re mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. We’re hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year. In the meantime we’ll also endeavour, through this fund and additional monies we intend to seek to help as many athletes as possible.” 

World Athletics’ Indoor Championships was among the first events to be postponed following the outbreak. Having originally been scheduled for March 13-15 in Nanjing, China, World Athletics moved at the end of January to push the championships back by a year.

The Olympic Games has also been pushed back a year until 2021, causing a delay to World Athletics’ own 2021 Championships, which will now take place from July 15-24, 2022 . The Diamond League, track and field’s elite annual series, has also postponed events in seven cities so far this year, between April and June. The London event, planned for July 4, is currently scheduled to go ahead, although further delays are likely.