THE World Athletics Championships is already in full swing – it began in Eugene, Oregon on Friday – but unless you are an avid sports fan, you would hardly know it was happening.

If any Brits win gold medals, and there are more than a few realistic opportunities of that over the next week, there may be more coverage but right now there is little awareness amongst the public that a major event is going on.

Even more worrying, few track and field athletes are household names. From a Scottish perspective, this is a travesty. Laura Muir is the closest we have got to someone who transcends her sport but for an athlete who has been world class for a number of years, and topped it off with an Olympic medal last summer, the 1500m runner remains relatively unknown.

Josh Kerr also won 1500m silverware in Tokyo last summer – he grabbed bronze – but he couldn’t be picked out of a line-up by the majority of Brits.

This decline in athletics’ popularity has been happening for some time, particularly in Britain.  In the 1980s, it was impossible to overstate the high regard both the sport, and its main stars, were held.

These days, however, interest has waned to such an extent that many of the top stars are unknown outside of the sport, coverage is minimal, and meets such as the British Championships, which boast dozens of world-class athletes in the start lists, are taking place in half-empty stadiums.

Last week Eilish McColgan, one of Scotland’s longest serving and most successful athletes, talked of her dismay at the decline of her sport. Something, she said, needs to change if athletics is to be invigorated.

One salient point she came up with was that almost everyone who plays football at a lower level watches the Premier League. The same cannot be said for running; of the tens of thousands of people who run recreationally, few are also heavily invested in the elite side of sport as a spectator.

Why the disconnect?

There is, of course, no easy answer.  One suggestion from McColgan is to allow people to bet on races and individuals in the same way people bet on horse racing.

It’s not a bad idea. Something needs to draw more people in.

It is perhaps not fair to compare things to the 1980s when Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett were household names.

Times have changed; there are far more sports battling for people’s attention and there is far more scope to watch sport on television and online.

Certainly, the constant drip, drip, drip of drugs scandals hasn’t helped athletics’ appeal.

And without a global superstar such as Usain Bolt, the sport is a much harder sell.

But Bolt was a once-in-a- generation athlete; the health of an entire sport cannot be dependent on the emergence of another such superstar.

This week’s World Championships may well help in promoting some names in the public’s consciousness, as will the Commonwealth Games later this month.

But something needs to be done to increase interest in this most entertaining of sports because if it’s not, a full recovery may well become impossible.


The prospect of a re-match between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall appears to have moved a step closer over the past couple of weeks.

Since Taylor’s controversial victory over the Englishman in February, the pair have been embroiled in a back and forth of insults, about each other, and about the result, which saw Taylor retain all four of his world title belts.

Having now vacated two of those, as well as confirming he is willing to remain at 140lbs, Taylor says everything is in place to ensure the re-match happens.

For Taylor’s sake, I hope an agreement is reached soon. Whether you think the Prestonpans boxer won the fight or not – and most people believe he didn’t, despite the judges’ decision – this prolonged will they, won’t they is doing no one, but particularly Taylor, any favours.

The bitchiness between the pair has won neither of the fighters any fans, and I’m sure has driven more than a few away. And while this uncertainty about a re-match continues, this bad feeling is only going to intensify.

A re-match either needs to be agreed upon – and if Taylor is as desperate for that to happen as he says he is, it shouldn’t be too hard – or else the Scot needs to make it clear he’s going to move up to 147lbs and move on from this controversy.

For what it’s worth, my money is on Taylor winning the re-match, if it happens. He was far from his best in the first bout but second time around, his motivation levels will be sky high, however much of a struggle it is for him to make weight. 

Taylor is a world-class fighter at his best and there are few, if any, at 140lbs who can live with him, never mind beat him, when he is on form. 

For the sake of Taylor’s  reputation, and most likely his sanity, this chapter needs to come to a conclusion one way or another, and soon.