The IAAF announced Wednesday that the Diamond League will operate under a new format beginning in 2017. The new structure will feature two championship meets at the end of the circuit in Zurich and Brussels that athletes must qualify for based on performances in the first 12 meetings on the circuit.
In recent years, Diamond League prize money was awarded based on cumulative points earned throughout the 14-meet series. That format was often difficult to keep tabs on for the casual fan as athletes rarely enter in all 14 competitions. On the whole, it led to uncomplying viewing due to a number of factors. First, a couple wins early in the cycle could put the first-place prize money out of reach by the final meets, making the races toward the end lacking in intrigue. Second, the points-based model could reward athletes who simply showed up to more meets rather than those who were more selective and performed better. As a result, winning the Diamond League title didn’t really capture much attention. Sure, it was cool to see athletes get a nice payday for their work, but the structure didn't produce any culminating championship competition that other sports feature.
Under the new structure, the athletes will earn points in the first 12 meetings of the Diamond League—presumably under the same allocation as previous years—in order to qualify for the championship in their event. The final two meets of the season in Brussels and Zurich will now be held as championship races, open only to athletes who have qualified for them in previous meets. All Diamond League prize money will be awarded based on the results of those championships.
“After seven seasons which have established the IAAF Diamond League as our premier circuit it is important to assess its impact and build for the future,” said IAAF President Seb Coe in a statement. “These decisions are the first step to growing the attractiveness of the series.”
While the point structure to qualify for the championship will face the same pitfalls as previous years, the championship will be a fun conclusion to what could now be properly considered the regular season of track and field. We may find going forward that the introduction of an NCAA-style qualifying time structure will further improve the format, but, for now, this is a welcome change. At least questions like, “how did this person win the Diamond League if they haven’t raced since June?” or “why did he win despite never finishing better than third in a race?” will never be asked again.
For years, track and field has only captured public attention during the Olympics, where all the stakes are piled into one race. Perhaps yearly championships for the sport will generate some level of interest from non-diehards. Well done, IAAF!