| Yohan Blake, in Lausanne, on Wednesday |
Lausanne: The manager of triple Olympic medallist Yohan Blake has accused UK Athletics promoter Ian Stewart of making an “insulting” offer for his sprinter to compete in Sunday’s Birmingham Grand Prix and of being interested only in providing a platform for double Olympic champion Mo Farah.
Cubie Seegobin said he was taken aback by an email sent to him by Stewart on the final day of the London Olympics offering the Jamaican world champion $40,000 to compete in Birmingham. He said there had been no prior discussion and it “didn’t come close” to the athlete’s true worth.
The offer was rejected and, instead, Blake has accepted invitations to compete in Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Lausanne and the Diamond League meetings in Zurich on August 29 and Brussels on September 7. As the world’s second fastest sprinter behind Bolt, Blake is believed to be commanding appearance fees of $150,000 — half of what Bolt earns per meeting.
“There’s an arrogance about these meets in England,” said Seegobin. “There’s something wrong. The attitude seems to be, ‘We’ve got Mo Farah so we don’t need anyone else’. Birmingham has a big West Indian community and you would have thought they would want to see Yohan Blake or Warren Weir or some of the other Jamaicans.”
The only men’s sprint race on the Birmingham bill is the 200 metres, in which the top-ranked athlete is American Wallace Spearmon, who was fourth in the Olympic final.
Bolt is a long-term absentee from Britain’s main Grand Prix athletics events because, under UK tax law, he would be liable for a percentage of his entire global earnings if he competed on British soil. The law was waived for the Olympics.
Seegobin, who also represents Weir, the Olympic 200m bronze medallist, said invitations to British meets appeared to depend on whether the agent or manager was on friendly terms with Stewart.
“This friendly stuff doesn’t work,” he said. “If you’re friends with this manager you get to have your athletes come in. If you’re not friends, you don’t get to be invited. You have to be in the boys’ club.”
Stewart was unavailable for comment but a spokesman for UK Athletics rejected the criticisms of the Birmingham meeting. “We can’t comment on negotiations with individual athletes but we’re delighted with the quality of Sunday’s field, which has 18 Olympic gold medallists and 46 medallists,” she said.
“We also have two of the three British gold medallists and our research tells us that it is British athletes who our supporters want to see most. We could have sold out Birmingham three times over on the back of Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford.”
Thursday’s Lausanne meeting features 19 Olympic champions, including Bolt, who will also be joining Blake for the final two Diamond League meetings of the season in Zurich and Brussels. Spectators will be denied the chance to see them go head to head, however, because they have opted to compete in separate sprint events at all three meetings.