(Reuters) - Sergey Bubka said he would review the flagship world championships, appoint a CEO for the sport and attract new global sponsors if elected president of governing body IAAF later this year.
The former world record pole vaulter, who faces another former Olympic champion in Briton Seb Coe in a bid for the top seat, said he wanted the sport to operate more as a business.
“We are very fortunate to be the number one Olympic sport,” said the 1988 Olympic champion who, like Coe, is an IAAF Vice President, in a conference call from Kiev on Wednesday after announcing his manifesto.
”At the heart of my program is the most intensive review of athletics that should be done, to make athletics more exciting and more attractive.
“It is my intention to overcome some challenges. How we can engage the youth, how to support (national federations) with innovation, financial support to make them more successful.”
When Bubka and Coe were competing athletics attracted huge TV audiences and often dominated the back pages of newspapers around the world.
Thirty years on, the sport is fighting to make a connection with the next generation.
A shortage of recognizable personalities, an aging audience, a confusing calendar, a continuing struggle to attract interest in the United States and the dark shadow of doping has left athletics fighting for a foothold in an ever-more crowded sporting and leisure landscape.
“We need to run as a business company,” said Bubka, who also said a CEO should be appointed within the international federation to increase efficiency between departments.
“We should also establish a business commission to share experience and knowledge to our sport. We must run our office as a business company but never to forget the love and passion of athletics.”
Bubka, an International Olympic Committee member, said regional and national federations should also be taught to operate as marketing agencies for the sport and generate revenues in their territories.
The IAAF in turn would help them access funds through the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic solidarity budget while also pledging to provide “within a few years” every member federation with a synthetic athletics track for top competitions.
Bubka also said there was room for more global sponsors to sign up with the IAAF in the coming years while also proposing a review of their world championships after talking to broadcasters and sponsors about the format.
“We should discuss with our broadcasters and sponsors how we can change them, how many days, what we can do for our future revenues,” he said.
Bubka, who is also the Ukraine Olympic Committee president, will challenge Coe for the top post during the IAAF Congress in Beijing, China in August.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer