Athletics and rugby union must use shutdown to take stock and come back stronger

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Sebastian Coe and Rugby Football Union boss Bill Sweeney insist their sports must use the coronavirus shutdown to take stock and come back stronger.

Lord Coe, president of World Athletics, has demanded that track and field reviews what it is doing in the time made available by the postponement of the Olympics and much of the Diamond League.

“This is an opportunity to not just tweak at the edges but to really make some changes,” he said. “To figure out all the things we can do different.

“To make sure we do everything to come out of this stronger than we went in and to ensure the sport becomes more emotionally connected and engages more fans.”

Athletics’ popularity has taken a nosedive since the retirement of Usain Bolt three years ago. Last autumn’s world championships in Doha played out in front of sparse crowds.

“In what are otherwise such grim times, let’s think for a bit,” Coe added. “Let’s not just go back to doing the same things we’ve always done.”

His battle cry was echoed by Sweeney, former chief executive of the British Olympic Association, whose Union is braced for revenue losses of £50 million.

Rugby was in a financially parlous state before this global health emergency. It is now on its knees.

Sweeney says the pandemic has highlighted the “fault lines” within the game but believes that out of desperate times has come a consensus not seen before.

“Everyone knows where the issues and problems lie, but we haven’t had a degree of co-operation and collaboration previously to be able to solve that,” he told BBC Sport. “I think that is changing.

“We are looking at things now in terms of all bets are off and a blank sheet of paper.

“How do we work together so we come out of this with a much stronger international game, a more rationalised calendar that makes more sense to the fans and makes more sense to the commercial partners?

“How do we come out of it so everyone can benefit? I really do believe that out of this you will see a different structure and a different shape.”

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