Welcome to Wales' Premier Athletic Club
together we are one

Cardiff on a roll?

Wednesday 10 June 2009

A new stadium; a new start? Old hands, who have seen it all before, are saying that the club is going through better times than it has seen for many years. Are we seeing green shoots or vigorous growth? Looking back, it is now clear that the last five to ten years at the old stadium were affected by the uncertainty that hung over the future of that place.

Firstly there was a plan to build a new stadium as part of the long mooted Sports City in Cardiff Bay (but where would athletics fit into it; or would it be a football stadium with a bit of athletics?). Then along came Cardiff City Football Club’s ambitious plan to replace Ninian Park. Where would it be built? The favoured spot would mean the athletic stadium would have to go. Would it be replaced or would athletics be shunted up to UWIC; which was planning a fantastic indoor facility but where the outdoor track would not be good enough to host even a British League meeting? Where would the club fit into all this?

These were questions constantly facing Cardiff AAC and the uncertainty meant that no planning for the future could be seriously contemplated. Would the club even have a future? These worries permeated all aspects of the club and affected enthusiasm. Team managers, coaches and athletes were all touched, with the inevitable result that recruitment waned and performance drifted. Of course, there were some bright spots but the general mood was one of uncertainty.

One of the bright spots was our acquisition of a club house through the initiative of Graham Finlayson and the generosity of Wiggins Teape which was closing its Cardiff factory and donated an old site office that we were able to convert to a club house. It was as a direct result of our having that club house that, when the new Cardiff Athletic Stadium plans crystalised, we were able to negotiate a 21 year lease on the room and office in the new stadium where we are now based.

The move from the old to the new stadium was long delayed and we were obliged to put up with great, and unfair, inconvenience (will team managers ever forget trying to organise teams under umbrellas because there was no cover in a partly constructed stadium?) before we were able finally to move indoors.

Fearful that the loss of virtually a whole year of normal activity would inflict permanent damage on the club, we were pleasantly surprised at the numbers of athletes who turned out on club nights throughout the winter. We shall also for ever be grateful to the coaches, team managers and others who supported the club though this difficult time. As spring and summer (can we call it summer yet?) approached, the numbers kept increasing and it is now usual to see well over 100 athletes and coaches busy on the track every club night. It is also good to see that, contrary again to the fears of some, the club room is well used as a base for club members.

All this activity is showing in the results of competitions. The Young Athletes League team has won all its three rounds by massive margins and is set to sail on to promotion. Likewise the Welsh Junior league team is thriving. And perhaps the icing on the cake was the performances last weekend of the senior teams. The British League team won handsomely and it is a long time since this happened. In fact previous team manager Dave Hawthorn could recall only one occasion in his 14 years in charge when the team actually won one of its matches. Equally, the UK Womens’ League team got off to a sound start and exceeded expectations. Add in the medals won at last weekend’s U20/U17 Welsh championships. Individually, Cardiff athletes have already registered some impressive marks (Tim Benjamin opened with a 45.80sec 400m) and we wish all our international athletes a successful summer campaign.

So, we are on a roll and the challenge now is to keep it going. Of course, we need the athletes to be enthusiastic and to continue to support club teams. But they need to be encouraged and supported and here our coaches and team managers are vital. We are so lucky that we have so many good coaches who, quietly and without fuss, are there week after week to help their athletes train and improve. Our team managers are full of enthusiasm and this rubs off, not only on the athletes, but on the club generally. And let’s not forget the officers, the canteen and many others who give up many hours of their own time for the benefit of Cardiff AAC.

Thanks to all and long may it continue.