USATF to Share More Revenue With Athletes

USATF to Share More Revenue With Athletes

USATF (U.S.A. Track & Field) and its Athletes Advisory Committee (AAC) over the weekend agreed in principle on a USATF revenue distribution plan that will deliver an additional $9 million in cash to athletes over the next five years.

The agreement comes after Brooks Running athlete Nick Symmonds set off a firestorm in August by refusing to sign a USATF document that instructs Team USA athletes to pack only Team USA, Nike or non-branded apparel for this month’s world championships in Beijing.

The new model will provide at least $10,000 for each athlete who qualifies for world championships or the Olympics. They also gain a chance for a $25,000 bonus for winning a gold medal. Under the new formula, a top athlete who wins a national title and Olympic gold medal could earn up to $100,000 when all prize money is included.

The federation also discussed language on its “statement of conditions'” regarding when Nike-sponsored team apparel should be worn at international events. New language will be made official at USATF’s annual meeting in December.

Symmonds, who won the U.S. national title in the 800-meters, was left off the team that competed in August at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing because he refused to sign the statement.

The full statement from the USATF follows:

USATF, Athletes agree on Revenue Distribution Model

USATF and its AAC over the weekend agreed in principle on a USATF Revenue Distribution Plan that will deliver an additional $9 million in cash to athletes over the next five years.

AAC officers and event leaders, USATF staff and High Performance Division officers met in Indianapolis to develop details of the plan. The USATF Revenue Distribution Plan was unanimously approved by the 19 athlete and High Performance attendees, including AAC Chair Dwight Phillips, High Performance Division Chair Michael Conley, athlete board members Curt Clausen and Darvis Patton, past AAC President Sandra Farmer-Patrick, and elected athlete leaders from all event groups.

“Our meetings in Indianapolis were groundbreaking,” said Phillips, a four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist. “For USATF to work with us on how to earmark $9 million in cash to athletes is historic, but we were just as excited by the unprecedented collaboration between athletes, the staff, and our High Performance Division. We left Indianapolis really excited about the future.”

“Everyone came to the table recognizing the issues at hand and extremely open-minded about finding solutions,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “We have been working with athletes for more than two years to try to come up with a funding model, and Dwight, his leadership team and our staff have worked especially closely in recent weeks. To be able to finalize the basic structure in a unanimous fashion speaks to the shared commitment of everyone involved.”

Cash to all Team USA members

In his State of the Sport address at the 2014 USATF Annual Meeting, Siegel pledged $9 million in incremental funds to athletes. The weekend’s meeting gave shape to the spending plan for those funds.

Beginning in 2016, roughly $1.8 million per year in additional, cash funds will be distributed to athletes over and above current USATF Tier funding, development funding and other programs. Roughly 75 percent of the funds will be evenly distributed among athletes who qualify for IAAF World Outdoor Championships or Olympic Games teams. The model will provide roughly $10,000 annually for each athlete who makes the World Championships or Olympic Teams.

The remaining 25 percent will be distributed as medal bonus money for individuals medaling at World Outdoor Championships or Olympic Games, with $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.  For relays, the number of athletes who run at least one round of that medal-winning team will share equally in the amount of the bonus.

Baseline revenue for athletes

USATF currently spends more than $15 million annually on athlete programs, including more than $5 million in cash directly to athletes (

Under the expanded funding model, a Tier 1 athlete who wins a national title and makes the team without medaling will enjoy a base of roughly $35,000. A Tier 1 athlete who wins national titles and one gold medal at a World Championships or Olympic Games will see their support from USATF increase from roughly $25,000 per year to $60,000. Including World Championships prize money, athlete income rises to potentially well over $100,000, not including prize money at other meets and personal sponsorship contracts.

In coming up with the model, the group looked at several considerations, including:

  • The core function of a national governing body, as defined by the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act and as mandated by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
  • Ensuring a baseline of funding to provide a minimum standard that was in line with U.S. salaries in other employment fields.
  • Distributing revenue directly related to the National Team and its performance
  • Objectivity in the funding distribution model.

“One of the biggest issues athletes debated for years is how to define ‘professional athlete’, which in our sport is extremely subjective,” Phillips said. “Probably the biggest moment of realization for us was that the role of a national governing body is to field the national team and support the sport, not to define ‘professional athlete’ or operate a professional league. We know that our athletes are extremely diverse in their concerns, and there is no single model that will please everyone. But by concentrating on the core responsibilities of the governing body and its relationship with athletes, we were able to achieve a breakthrough.”

“The new model keeps all our current development programs in place while rewarding athletes for National Team performances,” Siegel said. “To give an equal stipend to everyone on the team provides the opportunity for a No. 50 world-ranked athlete to receive the same baseline revenue as a No. 1 world-ranked athlete, regardless of event group. The medal-bonus structure provides the additional, upside incentive and reward.”

Phillips and Siegel this week will sign a memorandum of agreement on the plan, with additional details to be finalized in the next 30 days. The program will be reviewed in the weeks preceding the 2015 USATF Annual Meeting in Houston and will be finalized there.