BRITS ESCAPE RELEGATION: Rules were, ahh... "Mended"

LONDON, June 22 - The British men’s team, relegated from the European Cup last weekend, have been included in next year’s elite league final thanks to the nine-lane track in Malaga.

The team crashed unceremoniously out of the European Cup on Sunday, a dispirited performance featuring just three wins in 20 events sealing their first-ever relegation from the continent’s elite league into the first division.

But the European Athletic Association said they wished to take the opportunity offered by the extra lane at the Malaga track to allow the maximum number of countries to compete there at the meeting on June 28-29, 2006.

That saw the reinstatement of the British squad, who finished seventh out of eight in this year’s Cup final ahead only of the Czech Republic.

But UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins was not celebrating the news the men’s team had retained its premier league status.

``There is no way we would have put in an appeal for a place in the SPAR European Cup 2006,’’ said Collins, who took up his appointment in March.

``However, as the rules have been amended, Great Britain has been offered a get out of jail free card, which I cannot refuse.’’

Collins, who intends to review each individual performance to discover the reason behind the team’s poor display in Florence, insisted: ``This decision makes no difference to the steps we need to take nor the determination required, in fact this gives us a harder challenge.’’

But ``given this chance, we need to make the most of it.’’