This news item from Athletics Ireland caught my eye today. They started with the headline..."Ireland To Host European Team Championships 2013" which sounds great and then they continued...
Athletics Ireland is delighted to announce that they will host the European Team Track and Field Championships First League. The last time Ireland hosted a European team event was in 1997, when the competition was known as the European Cup. The European Athletics Council announced the decision this afternoon after the Athletics Association of Ireland presented their candidacy to host the event.
The Athletics Ireland Chief Executive John Foley said “The opportunity to host the championships is a great honour for Irish athletics and for Irish sport. I have no doubt that the 2013 championships will emulate the success of the 2009 Spar European Cross Country Championships which we hosted in Ireland.”
Athletics Ireland President Ciaran O’Cathain said “For Ireland to be given the honour of hosting the European team track and field championships is huge for the sport in Ireland. This will not only benefit athletics throughout the country, it will also boost the country as a whole. We now look forward to delivering a world class event in June 2013”
Liam Hennessy who led the Irish delegation bid said “The hosting of major events like the European Team Championships is the foremost way for us to develop and foster our great sport within the country. We are indebted to European athletics for entrusting us with this great honour. Athletics Ireland is appreciative of the support given by the Irish Sports Council, Fingal County Council, Setanta Sports, Clonliffe Harriers and the National Sports Campus in the hosting of this event.”
The European Team Championships has gone from strength to strength since its inception in2009, introducing a number of groundbreaking initiatives including a revamp of traditional track and field regulations, men and women competing as one team, promotion and relegation battles among the four leagues, and a European “league table.”
When the event comes to Ireland next year, Ireland will be up against teams from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland. The home advantage will offer Irish athletes the perfect opportunity to establish themselves amongst Europe’s elite.
One the face of it, it looks very positive however when I did a bit of searching, it soon became apparent that the key part of the statement above are the words 'First League' which is rather different from the initial headline of just the Ireland to host European Team Championships.
This is in effect a competition for the 'B' list of European countries in terms of athletic strength. The main European athletic teams like Germany, Russia, France and Britain will be taking part in the Super League in Gateshead in England in June 2013.
Is the First League a major European event? Absolutely and it's great to see it coming to Ireland and for Irish athletes to compete against international teams on home soil but Athletics Ireland are spinning things a bit when they suggest that "Europe's elite" are coming here.