Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 7th April 2017
DATE: 5 April 2017
The Stawell Gift has received its largest number of entries in more than a decade for the 136th edition of the famous carnival.
701 athletes have entered for the three day event, in a bumper 1838 individual races.
Former men’s gift winner and now CEO of the Victorian Athletic League Tom Burbidge said it’s a trend the league has been experiencing in recent years.
“The VAL has experienced a steady increase of registrations and participation over the past 4 seasons with the biggest growth coming in season 16-17,” he said.
In a positive sign for professional foot running, Burbidge said that while the Stawell Gift was their biggest and highest profile event, the increase was across its membership base and strong entry numbers were being felt across other carnivals during the 2016/2017 season.
“The VAL has had an increase of over 10% total registrations in this season alone, more than double the increase over the preceding 3 seasons. The majority of which are athletes under the age of 20. We are beginning to be faced with the issue of having too many entries for most competitions during the season. A problem I very much welcome,” the 2010 Stawell Gift winner said.
Boasting the largest membership base and most vibrant athletic league in the country, Burbidge pointed to digital platforms as a main reason behind attracting new millennials to the sport.
“We are becoming increasingly more engaging on social media each year and the interaction with younger athletes in particular is at an all time high. We still have a long way to go but providing more content online such as our YouTube channel has us reaching a much wider audience,” Burbidge added.
The Stawell Gift has lead the way with gender equality opportunities, including matching prize money for the men’s and women’s 120m gifts. For the first time in 2017, a women’s only 70m race will be added to the program.
“A contributing factor to the increasing numbers of female athletes must be accredited to Stawell Athletic Club offering equal prize money in the Women’s Gift for the past 3 years. We’ve seen numerous clubs including Geelong, Ballarat and Yarra Ranges follow suit and the result has seen more women are competing more regularly,” he said.
Stawell Athletic Club President Neil Blizzard echoed the comments from Burbidge.
“This years participation numbers is very pleasing to the club. While we have a wonderful tradition st Stawell, it’s important to remain relevant given all the options for people recreational time these days.
“What’s really pleasing is the growth in the number of younger runners and particularly women, who are going to be lining up at Central Park this Easter. After we introduced equal prizemoney in 2015, we knew it would attract more younger women,” Blizzard added.
Not resting on his laurels, Burbidge said the VAL was now able to invest back into the sport and continue to drive growth.
“The increase in participation is now enabling us to have more impact on the athletics scene. We’re able to demonstrate to a wide variety of demographics about why pro running is so good! Our resources aren’t as tightly restricted as they were so we’re finding ourselves in a position to be able to slowly start marketing the sport in different ways. We certainly have some exciting times ahead,” Burbidge declared.
The 2017 Stawell Easter Gift runs from Saturday 15 – Monday 17 April. Get your tickets at stawellgift.com.
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Posted by Hopwood Wendy
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