For the second year running, Kenya has suffered a massive blow on the global track and field circuit with the 3,000 metres steeplechase effectively struck off the lucrative Diamond League series for 2020.
Last year, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) downgraded the 5,000 metres, removing the 12-lap spectacle from the live television broadcast window of the 14-leg Diamond League series.
This was after the ejection of the 10,000 metres race, a popular event especially at the Prefontaine Classic leg of the series in Eugene, Oregon.
As a consolation, the IAAF said in a statement on Wednesday that the steeplechase, along with the 200m, will be held at selected meetings – including Oslo, Rome, and Doha - but outside the 90-minute broadcast window.
But the two events will not be part of races culminating in an end-of-year final that earns athletes a tidy sum of money, and removing them from the live broadcast will effectively reduce their appeal.
Athletics Kenya officials reacted angrily to the latest development and are expected to release a statement on Thursday.
And world women’s steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech said she was stunned by the latest development, arguing that the move would “kill careers.”
“This is killing careers for athletes who had specialised in the event,” the freshly-minted world champion from last month’s IAAF World Championships in Doha told Nation Sport.
“But for me, I can still switch to 1,500m and 3,000m flat and I can still do well. I can also run in the 10-kilometre road race,” added Chepkoech, who set a new world steeplechase record at eight minutes, 44.32 seconds at last year’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.
Wednesday’s IAAF statement argued that the removal of the men’s and women’s steeplechase from the 15-leg 2020 IAAF Diamond League series was informed by “Representative online research carried out in China, France, South Africa and the USA.”
At the IAAF World Championships in Doha last month, the world athletics governing body announced it had expanded the Diamond League series from 14 to 15 meetings in 2020 with the additional meet to be hosted at a yet-to-be-named venue in China.
China also hosts the Shanghai leg of the series.
NEW SPONSORSHIP DEAL
The IAAF also announced a new sponsorship deal for the series with Chinese multinational conglomerate, Wanda Group, taking over the title sponsorship for the next 10 years.
Previously, Korean electronics giant Samsung was title sponsor of the annual series after it evolved from the previous “Golden League” format in 2010 before ending their backing in 2012, leaving IAAF without a title sponsor since.
“The top three most popular disciplines in the Diamond League are the 100m, long jump and high jump, followed by pole vault, the 200m and 400m, according to the latest research carried out by the Diamond League,” the IAAF said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Popularity of athletes, head-to-head competitions and excitement of the individual competition were cited as reasons for the choice of the most popular events in the largest consumer survey into the disciplines hosted in the IAAF Diamond League.”
The IAAF added that the online research and “post event surveys in Belgium, Great Britain and Switzerland and click-throughs on Diamond League social media videos during 2019” informed their decision to drop the steeplechase along with the 200m races.
“As a result of the research, and the decision taken earlier in the year that only 24 disciplines (12 male/12 female) will form the core disciplines at all meetings, eight disciplines (four male and four female) will not be contested during the 2020 Diamond League season,” the statement added.
“These disciplines are the discus throw, triple jump and 3000m steeplechase - three events that currently sit towards the bottom of the research conducted - and the 200m which DL organisers felt would be too congested alongside the 100m, particularly in an Olympic Games’ year.”
The statement added: “Following a detailed review of the schedule for the 90-minute broadcast window of the Diamond League both the 200m and the 3,000m steeplechase will be included in 10 meetings (five male and five female) in the 2020 Diamond League season, including Oslo, Rome, and Doha.
“Two meetings will also feature discus and triple jump (one female and one male). However, none of the four disciplines will feature in the Diamond League Final in 2020.”
IAAF President Seb Coe, who is also the IAAF Diamond League Chairman, said they wanted a “fast-paced” series.
“Our objective is to create a faster-paced, more exciting global league that will be the showcase for our sport.
“A league that broadcasters want to show and fans want to watch. However, we understand the disappointment of those athletes in the disciplines not part of the 2020 Diamond League season,” said Coe.
“We want to thank the 10 Diamond League meetings which have found a way to include the 200m or the 3,000m steeplechase (male and female) during the 2020 season and the four meetings hosting a discus throw competition or a triple jump competition.”
“The Continental Tour, an enhanced global series of one day meetings supporting the Diamond League, will integrate these eight disciplines to ensure athletes get opportunities to compete extensively and earn prize money. We will also work more closely with the athletes in these eight disciplines to help promote them and their events,” add Coe.
The highest scoring athlete in each of the eight disciplines named above will also win a wild card into the World Championships, the IAAF said.
All disciplines will be reviewed at the end of the 2020 Diamond Leagues season and decisions on the 24 disciplines for 2021 agreed.
The full list of events in each Diamond League meeting will be released shortly.
All meetings also have the opportunity to feature additional disciplines outside the 90-minute international broadcast window to cater to their domestic fans and athletics, which will be carried by domestic broadcasters. All meetings, including the final in Zurich, are also looking at innovation around disciplines that can be taken into city centres to attract new fans to the sport.
Diamond League Disciplines 2020 (12 male and 12 female)
• 100m/110m hurdles
• Long Jump
• High Jump
• Pole Vault
• Shot Put