The committee is aware that there has been some concern around the allocation of the marathon place this year, and in the interests of clarity it would like to offer the following statement in explanation of the process and decision. This statement has been unavoidably delayed owing to the necessity of communication with those directly affected by the decision, and the availability of the committee members to agree the text.
The committee has this year taken the unusual but not unprecedented decision to award the club London Marathon place to Thomas Chambers. The process and reasoning behind this decision is set out below.
The committee would concede that the process has not been communicated as effectively as perhaps it should. This was due to an eagerness to free members to seek alternative charity places at the earliest opportunity, but also in major part to a conflation of members of the committee being out of the country on holidays and others going into hospital for significant procedures. This along with the narrow window between closing of applications and the proposed date of any ballot made for a limited opportunity to discuss the process and applications and communicate that in a timely manner to the candidates and then, in turn, the wider club. Clearly this is something that we can attempt to address in future years.
We hope that the club will be reassured however that the committee has acted democratically and in accordance with its remit set out in the constitution of the club and as required by UK Athletics throughout this process.This was very much a positive vote for Thomas and most definitely not a vote against any other candidates, nor was there any intent to denigrate any individual or their contribution to the club as may have been suggested or implied in some quarters. All our members make a unique contribution which is consistently valued.
It should be made clear that the draw for the marathon place is a custom and not a rule, and allocating the place without a draw is not without precedent. It is for the committee to decide the best process to take the decision forward in any given year.
The first job of the committee in this process is to assess the eligibility of the candidates based on the criteria set out below (and as previously published):
To be eligible for the club London marathon place…
You must be an active paid up member of the club (B.F.H club committee will be the final arbiter should it be necessary)
You must be in at least your second year of continuous membership.
Brandon Fern Hoppers is your first claim club
You have entered the official London Marathon ballot and been rejected.
You must run the marathon in club colours.
You cannot have used the club place in the previous two years (unless nobody else is in the club ballot)
It is expected that you will do a large proportion of your training with the club so the whole club may benefit from the experience.
This process means that it is not inevitable that it will end in a draw taking place, there could, for instance, be only one eligible candidate thus making any draw redundant, or the committee can, as in this case decide to award the place directly.
Regarding the definition of an ‘active member’. Whilst it is understood and taken into account that not everyone is in a position to be as actively involved as they may wish, through a variety of reasons, it is also considered important to remember that without those who are able and willing to make that extra commitment we would struggle to have a club at all, and it behoves the club to recognise those members where possible. Clearly this can be a very difficult judgement indeed, where personal friendships and preferences must be put to one side as much as is humanly possible.
Some discussion has been given in the past to setting out a minimum standard for activity but this is also fraught with difficulty. Attendance at club runs could be a key indicator, but if you have an ongoing commitment on that day you would be unfairly penalised, similarly participation in races gets the club name ‘out there’ and is a valued contribution also, but many races happen at the weekend which can also be a time when people have regular work and/or family commitments. Other activities which might be regarded as part of the club ethos are also worthy of mention such as supporting new members, supporting those in training, and ensuring the safety of other runners. These would all certainly be taken into account. In addition it is important that the applicant is active in the current year of membership and that an application should not rely mainly on historical activity. Given these difficulties it has generally been conceded that giving the committee the onerous task of making these judgements is the best or perhaps ‘least worst’ compromise.
Around the particular circumstances and merit of Thomas’ case there were a number of defining principles which influenced the decision. Of these the paramount one was that of his opportunity to apply for the place, set against his undoubted contribution to the club. In brief, Thomas missed out on eligibility for the marathon draw last year by the finest of margins regarding the start date of his membership. In addition to this, as has been well documented, this is the last year in which he will be an active member due to his retirement from the military and return to the U.S. This meant that Thomas would have just the one chance to apply for the place and to potentially represent the club, and it was widely felt that this constituted ‘exceptional circumstances’. In addition it was agreed that, of those that wished their names to go forward for consideration, Thomas most fully met the active member criteria, which weighed in his favour when added to the other factors. Set against this there were a number of other applicants all of whom will have a further opportunity to be considered next year and hopefully well into the future. It might be noted that additionally some candidates chose to withdraw in the hope of maximising Thomas’ chances but did not wish to make this action public.
It would clearly be inappropriate to comment in detail on much of the debate which was had around this year’s allocation, but I hope that this provides you with some insight into the process which the committee has gone through, and the reasons for it reaching the decision it finally arrived at.
We very much hope that the club can unite around those members who will be participating in this year’s London Marathon and provide the fullest possible support to those needing to raise monies for charity places and to all of them in their physical preparations.
The BFH Committee