How to Solve Track and Field's Largest Problems, Inspired by USATF

CTFL, Track, USATF -

How to Solve Track and Field's Largest Problems, Inspired by USATF

USATF’s Burning of $3.8 Million

Following this weeks USATF 2021 financial statement release and the outcry from athletes and fans alike within social media after finding out that USATF CEO Max Siegel made $3.8 million leaving many top athletes underfunded, I figured it’d be a good time to speak up. With all this going on as well as it being just about a month away from our official 1-year anniversary as a league, I wanted tell everyone how the CTFL operates and how the league plans on helping the sport.

USATF Financial Statement 2021

First off, the CTFL is a business, however in its current state our aim is to run at a loss for the foreseeable future. We are doing this not because we need to, but because the sport is in desperate need of saving. As the creator, I don’t foresee myself taking a salary until the athletes have a prize fund in excess of $30,000. Therefore, practically everything the CTFL earns goes straight back into either paying the athletes for all of their time and efforts or we invest it into increasing our media exposure to build a platform for the sport and its athletes (that includes bare minimum travel expenses and assisting some of the nicest human beings who offer their time and skills to help the league grow for free or for very little). So, you can understand why a $3.8 million salary has frustrated so many people, myself included being that its such a large waste of money for something that has no benefit to the sport.

The Current Track and Field Landscape

It’s my belief that many organizations like USATF go about assisting athletes in the wrong way (This opinion is on top of the fact that the USATF CEO is literally taking the money out of the athlete’s mouths). These “not-for-profits” focus on divvying up the funding from the government and their pre-existing sponsors instead of fixing the root problem. That root problem being that the metaphorical pie is not growing, i.e. the sport is stagnant and is seemingly dying off with funding for professionals and universities drying up. When first talking to other organizations, they became worried that the CTFL would take portions of “the pie” away which would make it harder for these organizations to put on necessary events and provide athletes with funding. These types of organizations think about how to keep their money while failing to understand that they can make the pie larger so more people can eat (hopefully you follow the pie metaphor).

To be clear, this is not an attack on the organizations I talked with while creating the CTFL. Their mandate is solely athlete focused which is needed for the sport to have a safety net and ensure a basic level of support for athletes. There just isn’t an organization built for the sole purpose of marketing the sport to fans effectively which helps athletes in the long run (Yes even Diamond League).

Now, the question is, if these organizations are helping the athletes, how can an organization like the CTFL do it differently and in some cases better?

How can the CTFL Grow the Sport?

As mentioned previously, the CTFL is focused on growing the sport and its access to funding. This is done by creating new opportunities for investment. Similar to Hockey Canada (maybe a bad organization to pick at the moment) and the NHL’s relationship. In this scenario, Hockey Canada’s job is not to grow the sport, as it’s focused on building up the athletes it has in its system and creating a contending national team. Hockey Canada receives adequate funding from the government which does not make it reliant on sponsorship or other sources of funding alone. Comparing this to the NHL, which needs to grow the market for hockey in order to make more money. Therefore, when you think about hockey, you think about the NHL and not team Canada. As a result of its focus to grow the sport, this ultimately allows the NHL to increase hockey’s overall value and pay their players higher salaries every few years due to a more lucrative and engaged fan base. The same can be said about track and field, however there is no official league or system that is set up aside from the Olympics that allows for a larger amount of world-wide fan engagement.

Photo by Mundo Sport Images

This is where the CTFL comes in. The league itself is a tool for growth and with it, also a tool for athletes to use to make more money doing the sport they love. As the CTFL continues to grow, so will the market for track and field, in addition to the monetary investment that should be redistributed back into the growth of the sport. Assuming the CTFL is correct in building the sport up using a team format, it can be used to increase the market for track and field perpetually. The league’s growth can be exponential if the following cycle can be achieved:

  1. It first starts off with attracting more investment through sponsorships and other revenue sources. This is why getting sponsors is so important to continue the league’s momentum.
  2. Using that money, we can attract a larger amount of high caliber athletes by paying them more as well as take some of the financial burden off of their shoulders. We accomplish this by helping them get funding through the league as well as assist them as they find external partners, because ultimately, the better the athletes, the more fans want to watch.
  3. In tandem with the last point, the increased revenue will allow us to pay for upgrades in our media quality and delivery.
  4. With better athletes and media, it becomes easier to attract more fans to the league and the sport. As we attract a larger audience the CTFL’s revenue will increase, which allows the cycle to repeat.

Evidently, if there are no major bumps along the way, the CTFL and other like-minded organizations have a very good chance of having a positive impact on the sport. The issues arise when groups of people emerge and get greedy similarly to the $3.8 million dollar man at USATF. When money is taken out of the sports system that serves no purpose, there is no value added into the sport. Unlike USATF,  the CTFL’s plan for perpetual growth is predicated on reinvesting all it has to give in order to improve the experience for fans and thus the athletes.


Thank you for reading and following along with the CTFL,

Quinn Lyness