World Athletics publishes 2020 annual report

The 2020 consolidated financial accounts should have marked the beginning of a new four-year funding cycle tied, in the main, to the revenues received from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This was not the case given the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021 and three of our four World Athletics Series events during 2020.  

In what was an extraordinarily difficult year for everyone we made a decision early in the year to concentrate on protecting the revenue we had and, more importantly, focus on reducing our expenditure. This was a good strategy which saw our cash reserves increase by 17% to US$40m.

In anticipation of a fractured year of events, significant effort went into the careful management of expenditure with strong results. Expenditure for the period of 31 December 2020 decreased by 38% to US$41.7m from US$67.8m in 2019. Several mitigations contributed to this decrease.

• Competition related expenses dropped by almost half (49% to US$15m) as three of our four World Athletics Series events were postponed.

• Competition, event and development related Area and Member Federation grants also decreased significantly (48% to US$8m) as staggered and extended lockdowns across the world took hold. 

• Furlough led to a reduction in staff costs of 7% (US$750k) in 2020 with up to 60% of head office staff fully or partially furloughed during 2020. 

• Non-event related travel spend (including accommodation costs) dropped 85% from US$3.6m in 2019 to just US$550k in 2020.

Revenue for the year ending 31 December 2020 declined by 13% to US$44.2m from US$51.1m in 2019, primarily due to the reduced number of events, particularly Label Road Race events. However, maintaining revenue from broadcast and commercial rights by postponing rather than cancelling events helped to deliver US$34.9m revenue in a difficult year. The revenue also benefitted from the Russian Athletics Federation reimbursement of US$6.8m. 

“The year 2020 seems a lifetime ago,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe says in his opening message in the report. “But I know that times are still difficult for many of our athletes as the Covid-19 global pandemic continues to restrict our movements and add layers of complexity to our lives.

“Looking back on 2020, I am proud and grateful for the way we came together as a sport. Three words define 2020 for me: resilience, bravery and flexibility.

Resilience in the way we managed to adapt to the circumstances of the year. It was really hard work, but we were told regularly that we were braver and delivered better than many other international sports federations.

Bravery in the way we didn’t sit by and let the pandemic wash over us. We took action and made decisions to help our athletes navigate the year.

Flexibility in the way we adapted our ways of working, from our global decision-making forums going virtual to the staging of regular online Member Federation Information Sessions joined by over 85% of our Member Federations.

“I was also delighted to welcome three new partners – Pinsent Masons, parkrun and Nielsen – in 2020. And I was incredibly proud that we managed to stage our World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, as well as over 600 individual events around the world in 2020 including eight Diamond League and 28 Continental Tour meetings which gave 4000 athletes from 94 countries an opportunity to participate in high level competition through these two meetings series.

”We have been prudent about how we have managed our resources, both financial and human, and throughout the disruption we had the discipline to focus on business-as-usual projects and programmes. This has been a huge effort by everyone in our sport. But we made significant progress across so much of our sport. We didn’t just survive, we thrived.

”The priority for all of us right now is to continue to work hard for our sport in a pandemic environment that will be with us longer than we had envisioned,” Coe adds.

“We have extraordinary breadth and depth of talented elite athletes in all Areas as we have seen in 2021 where 43 different teams won medals and 82 teams reached a final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with 151 national records set in 65 countries. At the World Athletics U20 Championships 35 countries won medals with 63 countries finishing in a top eight position. 

“Together we came through 2020 stronger, more resilient, more innovative and creative, more connected, and more confident about our sport and its future. And, dare I say it, a little braver.”

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