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Harriers' top flight status under threat

Press Report - 10th March 2000

Wakefield Senior Women Squad
Wakefield Harriers and AC risk losing their top-flight status and high profile prestige in UK athletics if the club doesn't receive a significant cash injection - and quickly.

That was the stark warning emanating this week from the Thornes Stadium-based club that can boast three teams in the UK National Premiership League. Targeting local businesses and organisations for sponsorship is seen as the only way forward by the club.

"The club was formed over 100 years ago to promote athletics for all age groups from juniors to veterans," said a club spokesman, "and the club is particularly responsive to supporting disabled athletes.

"Members come from across the whole of Yorkshire and the club is undoubtedly the most successful in the county with athletes from all categories achieving more championship medals than any other club."

The flagship of the club is, without question, the senior women's team which is now in the UK Women's League Division 1 - the top division in the country. This achievement is seen by the Harriers as being the equivalent of a Unibond League football club gaining promotion to the FA Premiership.

The club can also boast several current internationals including Kerry Jury who is expected to partner Denise Lewis in the heptathlon at the Sydney Olympics later this year. Jury represented Great Britain in the last Commonwealth Games and was featured live on BBC TV as she competed to earn a fifth-place finish.

In the recent televised AAA Indoor Championships at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, Wakefield's Shirley Griffiths dominated the 1500m to become the national indoor champion. She hopes to represent GB at the forthcoming European Championships.

The club also has several 'names' who have represented their country at both senior and junior levels, including Emily Freeman, a sprinter who along with new signing Nicole Crosby, will no doubt feature high in the UK League and championship rankings in 2000.

Other athletes with international vests are Alice Butler (800m), Elaine Sutcliffe (400m), Penny Thackray (road and cross country), Fiona Westwood (long jump) and Judith Payne (high jump).

There are several more athletes on the fringe of stardom and many men in the younger age groups who will, without doubt, provide the club with an outstanding future. The leading male athlete at the club is sprinter Paul Sampson, a recent recruit of the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats Rugby League team.

"In recent years the club has managed, often with great difficulty, to self-finance its development," added the spokesman. "But the success and achievements have now stretched resources to the limit and it is vital that sponsorship is achieved if the club is to survive at the very top level as well as providing superb coaching, training and competition for the athletes."

"The club will have to provide team transport and accommodation for several leading venues throughout England and Scotland in the coming season in addition to physiotherapy fees, officials expenses and competition entry fees etc."

It is hoped to offer potential sponsors exposure not only on a local media level but also nationally and regionally through the television and radio networks. In addition, Wakefield Harriers are prepared to display company logos on kit, banners and team transport.

The Harriers also intend intensifying recruitment, by visiting schools in the Wakefield District to promote both the club and the sport. It is envisaged that sponsors would become an integral part of this roadshow-style activity.

"The year 2000 will be dominated by athletics due to the Sydney Olympics" said the spokesman. "And a sponsor to such a leading club would be a superb advertising and promotional feature for any company."

Anyone interested in teaming up with the Harriers should contact sponsorship co-ordinator Terry Ridsdale on 01709 874864, or by email to