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End of the road for athletics league

LISA DOBRISKEY: just one of the athletes who owes much to the league. Picture: CHRIS DAVEY
LISA DOBRISKEY: just one of the athletes who owes much to the league. Picture: CHRIS DAVEY

RISING costs and increased administration have led to the closure of the highly-respected Parkwood Cross-country League in Canterbury.

The league, which started in 1992, provided the first taste of cross-country running for some of east Kent's finest distance runners of recent years, including European Junior Cross-country champion Charlotte Dale and European under-23 1,500m bronze medallist Lisa Dobriskey.

But race director James Roberts believes the commitment involved in continuing the league was beyond the small band of volunteers involved. He said: "Health and safety regulations mean you have to be so careful over potential hazards, which is right, and you have to marshall every twist and turn.

"The problem now is if something goes wrong the race director is liable. Last season, for the first time, we were required to carry out a risk assessment for every race. Although we race at the same venue, we have five courses and had to carry out the assessment eight weeks before each race.

"If you are a paid professional it is OK, but it is a lot of paperwork for amateur organisers. We were always careful about safety, but we did it with common sense.

"We cut back dangerous branches and twigs and made sure there were no undue hazards.

"The costs were always going up as well because you have to find money for first aid and have marshalls who are correctly clothed and visible. It was hard to do unless you could find a sponsor or charge the participants for it."

Mr Roberts founded the league and ran it at the University of Kent under the wing of Invicta East Kent Athletics Club.

Fifteen clubs took part in the league in its heyday and it was regarded as a pioneering competition in the county.

Boys and girls' teams had previously competed at separate events whereas, in this league, all the points counted to one team score.

"There was a lot going for the league," said Mr Roberts. "Youngsters regarded it as the league to start in from absolute beginners to those such as Charlotte Dale and Lisa Dobriskey, who have gone to international honours.

"Having the boys and girls together at the same event also helped officials and parents because they did not have to go to two different places.

"Team managers from the clubs have phoned and taken the time to write personal letters of thanks.

"They have said how disappointed they are that the league has stopped because they regarded it as a must for their young athletes."

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