SCOTTISH Athletics chief executive Mark Munro insists Scotland can’t just “write off” the 2020 season – because the effort being put in by volunteers proves it means so much to so many.

Bosses admit a track and field season is now very much hanging in the balance and contingency plans with some restrictions are already being put in place for the upcoming cross country campaign next autumn and winter.

But Munro firmly and passionately believes that the sport will come through the coronavirus crisis due to the creativity, energy and goodwill surrounding the sport in Scotland.

“I would not go that far,” said Munro, when asked if athletics should write off 2020 by Rhona McLeod.

“We can’t let that happen for the sake of the sport. I think we take some encouragement when you see the work going on at our clubs, coaches engaging with their athletes and advising them, Virtual Challenge competition, education going on – it is good to see all of that.

“As the governing body, we have a responsibility to the whole sport.

“Yes, it is devastating that we can’t deliver a Scottish Road Relays at the end of March; a Scottish Road Race series through the summer with thousands of people running; possibly no ‘Track and Field Championships; and potentially have cross country affected for the 2020-21 winter.

“In a traditional, normal sense for athletics in Scotland, that is terrible.

“But we have to look at it all differently now and accept the whole world is troubled and affected.

“We have to make the best of the place we are in and let’s be creative and innovative. What can we do as a sport as we move beyond the lockdown phases?

“I can see Virtual Events continuing – they’ve been so popular.

“We are working every day on the ‘Exit Plan’ and refining it. We can look at what’s happening in England, over in Ireland, and we’re guided of course by the Scottish Government advice. From there, we can keep adapting our own framework to emerge from this.”

A feel-good factor has been generated in recent years across various track and field events and the hope is that, somehow, that momentum helps maintain athletics going forward.

“Before Covid-19 things were going fantastically well for athletics in Scotland,” said Munro.

“It’s not just high level performances by athletes on the global stage – we had seen consistent growth over a five or six-year period. That growth was evident in clubs, in events and in our own membership.

“There were 27 Scottish Records in the Indoor season at the start of 2020 and, heading towards the Olympics, there was a terrific buzz around the sport.

“So to have the situation we now have is devastating. But you must contextualise it. We have to be pragmatic. The world is facing this not just sport overall or our sport itself.

“Undoubtedly a drop-off at grassroots level is a concern for us.

“Again, on the plus side, you just need to go out of the door and you will see more folk walking, jogging and running. We will try, when the time is right, to introduce more people to athletics – or reintroduce them to athletics, as the case may be.

“And there’s a lot of good work happening at our clubs. They are staying connected with their members whether that is via virtual events, quizzes, coach seminars and tips.

“It is really pleasing to see that effort from our volunteer club leaders and coaches.

“We are being innovative too. We’ve had very successful Virtual Challenges – with 2000 people signed up for a Virtual Mile – and our development team are contracting external experts to give clubs the advice and support the help they need on issues like finance and governance. We’ve a lot of distance learning going on too.”

On Scottish Athletics’ Exit Plan Framework document, Munro added: “As lockdown eases, I think we will see small groups being able to train together and work with their coach.

“It could depend on facilities opening, of course. That is outdoors – I think indoor athletics will be more of a challenge.

“Performance athletes might get back training before community access is allowed. We have to remember that for our Scottish elite athletes: this is their job.

“We’ve pushed back our 4J Studios Scottish Championships events to mid-September and right now I would say they are 50-50.

“We’re already looking at cross country from October and trying to assess how some scenarios might develop. We have to do scenario-planning at the moment.

“For all our events, we need big teams of Officials, too.

“We could have some kind competition ‘together apart’ as our Events Manager, Ally Love, calls it.

“That would be small groups competing at different venues and scores, distances or heights being fed back to us. It would be a bit of fun but stimulate competition among athletes.

“Clubs could do these competitions themselves in younger age groups.

“We’ve a duty not to rush athletes back into championship competition. It might not be appropriate.

“If we can’t do a Scottish Championships because athletes and coaches haven’t really had time to prepare – facilities, events affected – then we’ll make it a ‘Scottish Open’ or a ‘Scottish Challenge’ or something like that. And just try and get some folk together to compete.

“We may need to do some event groups at different venues and try it that way.”