Behind The Tape - What Of The Future? (01/10/2013)

The following is an article taken from a periodical in the 1930's called "The Cyclist & Athlete". It shows what challenges faced athletics in between the wars with new challenges and distractions for people to both participate in and to observe.

Whilst in many ways it is "dated" it is interesting to see how, some 70 years or more on, our sport has developed and the "new" challenges that are still faced.

Perhaps the final paragraph contains some lessons for us all though in outlining a role we can all play.

Behind The Tape - What Of The Future?

(By "Back-Marker")

How are things going in the world of athletics? Will there be a revival very soon, or will the continued lack of public interest mean the ultimate decay and gradual extinction sports meetings as we know them?

These, of other queries of a similar nature inevitably arise when athletes or officials gathered together in clubrooms or "smokers," and, to be quite candid, the consensus of opinion is seems to indicate that the future of athletics is not a very hopeful one. And if the pessimists are invited to give their reasons for such gloomy forebodings, nine times out of 10 they point to the shortage of meetings, due to lack of interest by the general public and the consequent unwillingness of promoters to take any risks. Greyhound racing, dirt track meetings in the remainder of the competitive Saturday afternoon attractions are all cited to prove that the modern taste for entertainment has undergone a change, and that the thrills and excitement of keenly contested sprints or fast "quarters" are no longer sufficient to hold and maintain the interest of a public which prefers to watch dogs chasing and imitation hair, or to see fast motorcycles churning up the cinders.

A great deal of which is undoubtedly true, but which should only make athletes and club officials the more keen to accept the challenge stop after all, the most conservative adherence of athletics will be prepared to admit that the spectator has never been adequately catered for at sports meetings in the past, and it is not surprising that many of the thousands of people who like to watch sport in the open air have turned to the newer forms of entertainment.

To take accommodation, for instance. How many sports grounds are there in this country which make for comfort for the spectators? Where are the well-planned terraces or covered stands which ensure shelter (and incidentally, some spectators) even on a wet day. In an age of electricity and loudspeaker amplifying apparatus, where are they up-to-date indicators and scoreboards which will keep the onlookers informed, and will assist the harassed stewards to retain patience and tempers, since they will not have to be asked in stentorian tones to "turn that board around"?

Finally, where are the modern entertainment devices which will keep our spectators interested during those intervals which must occur at even the best regulated meetings? Give the public comfort and entertainment as well as good sport, and they will flock back to the sports grounds again, for there is an inherent love of clean, healthy exercise amongst the British people, and they always enjoy the spectacle of speed and stamina pitted against speed and stamina.

So much for the public, then. For the rest, the enthusiasm amongst competitors was never so high, and every season brings an increase in the number of active participants, whose performances, also, are of an increasingly high standard.

Why, in the circumstances, should there be any fears for the future?

First of all, let us cater for the spectators comfort and enjoyment; secondly, let us harness the enthusiasm of the clubs and the competitors by cooperative efforts at sports promotion, and, thirdly and lastly, let us all make it our job to infect our friends and colleagues with our own enthusiasm. It is not enough to be a mere competitor or to take a love in the game for the game's sake.

Propaganda and publicity is needed, and if this is of the right kind we need have no fear at all for the future.