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Stars to boycott Berlin?

Top track and field stars, including Croatian high jump queen Blanka Vlasic, are considering a boycott of the opening Golden League meeting in Berlin, Germany on June 14 over appearance money.

Vlasic’s Austrian manager Harald Edletzberger told German Press Agency dpa at the Qatar Super Grand Prix that ‘there have been discussions to this effect among managers in Doha’ on the weekend.

‘The ISTAF (meet organisers) has come out saying they will not pay any appearance money for the top stars. We are not happy with this, because it is not fair to the athletes and also to the other meetings which are paying an appearance fee.

‘So now we managers have sent a letter to the (world governing body) IAAF in this regard and we are waiting for their intervention,’ said Edletzberger.

ISTAF manager Gerhard Janetzky told dpa on the weekend that talks are ongoing with athletes’ managers and attributed the news from Doha to the tough negotiations in economically difficult times.

‘Fact is that we are in tough talks with many managers … we pay prize money and of course we pay appearance fees as well. It is only natural that they are all playing for high stakes,’ Janetzky said.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told dpa that he wasn’t aware yet of such a letter from the managers. But he also said: ‘The question of prize money is up to the meets.’

A boycott of the event could mean that the stars miss out on their chance for the lucrative Golden League jackpot of $1 million dollars for the athlete(s) who win their event at all six competitions in the elite series.

However, if no athlete manages six wins, the athletes who win five events from the meets in Berlin, Oslo, Rome, Paris, Zurich and Brussels can share %500,000.

It remains unclear whether the conflict could set a precedent for other Golden League meetings to follow – or even spill over to other sports like tennis or golf where appearance money has mushroomed into hundreds of thousands of dollars for top stars.

But with shrinking budgets and sponsorship deals pressing hard in tough economic times, top names may have to accept cuts.

Berlin has the biggest trouble of the Golden League meets to come up with a big budget to attract the stars. The meeting is also yet to apply for the Diamond League series which is to replace the Golden League from next year onwards.

Edletzberger said that Vlasic, who missed the 2008 jackpot when she was defeated in the final meet, is interested in principle of competing in Berlin where she would likely meet German Ariane Friedrich, who beat her indoors when both jumped 2.05 metres.

But Vlasic will be in Berlin’s Olympic stadium in August when she aims to defend her world title from Osaka 2007. She described another 2.05m leap in Doha ‘good for my confidence. That is just what I needed.’