Athletics: IAAF chief Sebastian Coe opposes Nestle's exit

IAAF president Sebastian Coe has been battling to ease the concerns of the world athletics body's sponsors.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe has been battling to ease the concerns of the world athletics body's sponsors.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

IAAF president 'dismayed' by Swiss food company's decision to end kids' athletics sponsorship

GENEVA • World athletics chief Sebastian Coe has hit back angrily at Nestle's move to terminate its sponsorship of the scandal-hit IAAF, insisting he will not accept the decision.

In 2012, Nestle became the main sponsor of a programme aimed at promoting athletics for youths worldwide. It was reported to be worth US$1 million (S$1.39 million) a year.

"Angered and dismayed by today's kids' athletics announcement. We will not accept it. It's the kids who will suffer," said International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Coe in a brief statement on Wednesday.

Nestle said it is concerned over fears the corruption and doping scandals surrounding the sport could damage the company's reputation.

"I confirm that we have decided to end our partnership with the IAAF Kids' Athletics programme with immediate effect," Nestle spokesman Lydia Meziani said. "This decision was taken in light of negative publicity associated with allegations of corruption and doping in sport made against the IAAF."

Meziani said Nestle decided to "terminate (its) existing relationship with the IAAF" because a continued partnership "could negatively impact our reputation and image".

THINK OF THE KIDS

Angered and dismayed by today's kids' athletics announcement. We will not accept it. It's the kids who will suffer.

SEBASTIAN COE, IAAF president, after Nestle's move to terminate its sponsorship of the embattled federation.

The IAAF is facing crises on multiple fronts, including widespread allegations of corruption and bribery under disgraced former boss Lamine Diack.

Before Coe's tough-talking reaction to Nestle's decision, the world body had been keen to stress the benefits of its tie-up with Nestle, the world's largest food company.

"The IAAF is in discussion with Nestle concerning the final year of its five-year partnership with IAAF Kids' Athletics," said the IAAF in a statement.

"This has been a successful programme with 15 million kids aged seven to 12 years in 76 countries taking part in fun team activities which promote a healthy, active lifestyle.

"In 2016, IAAF Kids' Athletics plans to reach a further 15 countries, training 360 lecturers, instructing 8,640 physical education teachers, with three million children participating by the end of the activation."

Separately, Coe has faced criticism following Russia's ban from the sport for what a commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) described as "state-sponsored" doping.

Wada's report claimed that the IAAF governing council must have known about corruption orchestrated by Diack, a Senegalese national now facing criminal charges in France, and about doping in Russia.

Since the scandals broke, Coe has been travelling around the globe, notably in Asia, where he has sought to shore up support for the IAAF, hoping to ease the concerns of corporate backers weary of being tied to a tainted organisation.

Speaking in Tokyo on Monday, Coe, who won back-to-back 1,500m golds at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, said "the journey back to trust is one of an uncertain length, but we have to make changes".

The defection of Switzerland-based Nestle as a sponsor came after the IAAF admitted last month that it was battling to retain corporate backing, amid reports that adidas - its largest sponsor - was also walking away.

The deal with the German sportswear giant, signed in 2008 and reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars, was due to run until 2019.

The IAAF's other sponsors are Canon, Dentsu, Toyota, Seiko, TDK, TBS and Mondo.

Japanese camera giant Canon and Dentsu, the Japanese media giant which holds the marketing and licensing rights to IAAF events, have pledged to stand by the beleaguered organisation.

The others have yet to comment publicly. Seiko, TBS, TDK and Toyota are also based in Japan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Coe opposes Nestle's exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe