A LEADING North-East athletics official is trying to rally opposition to proposed UK Athletics younger age group changes he says will have “disastrous consequences” for the sport.

Mike Bateman, secretary of Morpeth Harriers, has contacted all clubs in the region alerting them to the controversial proposals.

In a round-robin email to North-East club officials Mr Bateman says: “Many of you may still be unaware of UKA’s plans to change age groups for young athletes.

“Most worrying of these is changing the operative date for age groups from September 1 to January 1. This would have the effect of putting youngsters in the same school year into different age groups and requiring half of the athletes to change age groups on January 1, partway through the cross country season.”

He adds: “I am working with a number of other club-based people in various parts of the country in opposing these changes.”

Outlining the UKA proposals Mr Bateman says that the two main changes would be to replace the U20/U17/U15/U13 age groups with U20/U18/U16 and U14, with no U13s or U12s, and replacing the August 31 date with December 31 in the year of competition as the age group change date.

He says the changes would have a “hugely negative impact” on schools and club athletes and the only advantage would be to bring the age groups into line with the IAAF, making selection for the World and European Championships(U18) easier, particularly for hurdles and throws events.

But he adds: “The disadvantages are many and serious”, with some children sitting in the same classroom finding themselves in different age groups and “confusion would reign in schools events.”

Mr Bateman concludes: “We are confident that the vast majority in the sport will be against these proposals and ask you to use this opportunity to oppose them.”

*Blyth Running Club stages it annual Blyth Valley 10K road race tomorrow (10am). Late entries will be accepted until a 600 limit is reached.