CLOSER links between clubs, coaches, athletes and sports venues are required if athletics is to keep thriving in Sheffield, says Lorenzo Clark, one of the most influential sports administrators in the city.
Clark, who is director of operations for Sheffield International Venues (SIV), the company that manages facilities such as Ponds Forge, Don Valley and the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, was responding to claims by leading coach Toni Minichiello that the city would never produce another Jessica Ennis.
And while accepting that SIV supported the council’s decision to close Woodbourn Road athletics stadium, Clark explained to The Star that everything was being done to keep the sport at the forefront of the company’s priorities.
He said: “Yes Woodbourn has closed but we have rearranged all the school sports days and fixtures for the EIS and Don Valley Stadium.
“Not a single sports day has been lost and we’ve also guaranteed both athletics clubs in the city that they can use Don Valley for the same price as they were paying for Woodbourn Road.”
Clark also hit back at claims that SIV wasn’t doing enough to develop young athletes in Sheffield.
He said: “We (SIV) have a strategy for athletics that we hope will become a city-wide strategy.
“I think it is important that the clubs and top level coaches scout talented athletes and work closely with them.
“We need to work more closely with the clubs but they need to be able to send coaches to sports days or our athletic camps and spot young athletes with potential.
“Jessica Ennis was a product of the Linford Lions scheme at Don Valley.”
As a former international water polo player, Clark has experience of performing at the highest level.
He said: “I only had a chance at water polo when a friend suggested I give it a go. This is often how it happens in athletics.
“There needs to be closer links with a joined up strategy that everyone is working to.”