This is a proposal I would like to bring forward to all the members of the league to get your feedback and thoughts on.
As you are aware, the Bay Sheffield is the League’s biggest event, happening at the end of each year held at Glenelg. Every gift winner, both Open and Women's, receive a sash, a sum of money and are driven around the oval to celebrate their victory for winning such an amazing historical footrace. Currently, the Open gift winner gets their name placed on a selected paver and this paver is placed near the rotunda at Glenelg to show significance and history to the footrace. These pavers are a fantastic way to show pride in such a well organised and significant event and also promote the biggest gift race in South Australia.
Over the past 20 years it has been fantastic to see the increase in women competing in the pro circle and I would like to propose that the names of the women's gift race winners, be placed on pavers close to the rotunda as well.
I would like to conduct a survey to see if this proposal should be considered and or followed through on.
I would also love to hear feedback to your response, if you feel led to do so.
I don't think the SAAL should be too worried about having this email published in an open forum. I'm sure there is a lot of people with an interest in the Bay Sheffield who are not on the email list.
I have no issues with Zoe or the SAAL putting it out there. If they feel strongly enough on the issue then it is good they've sought the members' views.
Personally I am opposed to the idea. Below is an email I sent to the SAAL expressing my thoughts on the matter:
Hi Deb (SAAL Manager)
The Bay Sheffield is an iconic event. The 120m Bay Sheff itself is THE race the rest of the carnival is built around. Every other race is a support event for the Bay Sheffield to make it a carnival - just like the Melbourne Cup is THE event and the other 8 or 9 races on the day of the Melbourne Cup are there to add to the carnival.
It needs to stand alone as the iconic event and pinnacle of the day. It has no equal in terms of prestige and honour. The other races certainly have a degree of prestige and honour attached to them and rightly so, but they can't be compared to the Bay Sheffield race itself. They can only be compared against each other. We, the current custodians of the sport - whether we be athletes, trainers, officials, administrators, sponsors, supporters etc, have no right to tinker with the history of the sport by elevating other races to the level of our number one event.
There's a sash, trophy and prizemoney offered to all the races at the Bay Sheff carnival. So they are all on a par, albeit the difference in prizemoney offered. What make the 120m Bay Sheffield stand alone as the iconic event is the few extra benefits offered such as the paver. It reinforces what the carnival is about and that is the 120m Open Bay Sheffield that has been run and won for over 100 years.
The women's race was ADDED to the carnival in 1989. So without the original race and races that anchor the carnival the women's race would not have been put in place. It could have been added as a 100m event. It didn't matter what race over what distance we put on the carnival, it was there for the women to compete. It has no real tradition behind it. It's building some now, and maybe in 50 years time it might be worth revisiting this issue. The Bay Sheffield event has over 100 years of wonderful history and tradition and that can't be diminished by offering pavers to the winners of a race that's been around for 20 years.
To me, the women's Bay Sheffield offers an opportunity for those not capable of being competitive in the premier, icon event, to still be compete at the carnival. It's no different to the other races like the 550m, the 1600m select, the vets and the junior races. The middle distance runners don't have a paver as their races are not the cornerstone for the carnival. That doesn't diminish their importance, it simply says there are other race opportunities for athletes who have a different focus.
It would be an interesting exercise to see how many spectators would hang around if the women's 120m final was run at say 7.30pm, an hour after the Bay Sheffield final was run at say 6.30pm. My guess is that less than half the crowd would hang around. Once the final of the Bay Sheff has been run, the crowd thins out very quickly. This is not to be flippant, it reinforces the importance of the iconic race of the carnival. People are primarily there to see which runner will etch his name in history with the other 120 plus previous winners. The one who will be immortalised with a paver at Colley Reserve. I'm sure they will enjoy the other races, but they do not have the same appeal as the one they've ALL come to see.
The women's 120m is a great race but so is the women's 550m or the women's mile or the women's 70m - all have been added to the program in the last 20 years. So where does it stop? Should other Bay Sheff carnival race winners have a paver? How much room is there?
And in reference to the suggestion it is 'sexist' or denies women an equal opportunity, the paver is not a right. It is a privilege -awarded the winner of the open Bay Sheffield. The race is open to anyone to enter and there is no discrimination. It only 'discriminates' on natural ability. An athlete must be capable of winning off less than 11.0m. One day a female athlete might just be good enough to win the Bay off the limit. And if so, she will get her paver at Colley Reserve.
The pavers were introduced as a way to recognise & acknowledge the one winner of the only true iconic race. And that is the only paver that should be down there.
Anyway that's my thoughts.
PS: The Stawell Gift also offers pavers in the main street for the winner of the Stawell Gift and as a previous winner I'd be very disappointed if the winner of another race at Stawell was elevated to the status of the Gift.
Like the Bay in SA, there is "the Gift" then there's the rest.