Should there be one athletics club representing the city of Brighton and Hove?

Frank Burton, the chairman of Brighton and Hove Athletics Club, believes there should be a constructive and open meeting between the three clubs to discuss the advantages and disadvantages.

He said: "I would appreciate a meeting where all views could be aired. I believe there is a good case now, with Brighton and Hove becoming a city for getting everything under one club banner.

"This is not a case of Brighton and Hove Athletics Club wanting control over everything. I want us to look constructively at the benefits of amalgamating and having a city club.

"I can understand people wanting to have different groups but I believe that under one club banner you can still have different sections.

"At the moment the talent is being diluted."

There was one club before a split in 1981 after Brighton and Hove's Steve Ovett won a gold medal at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

His training companion, Matt Patterson, believed there should be an elite group of middle-distance runners and Phoenix was formed.

Phoenix chairman Colin Simpson said: "I think the city is big enough for three clubs. You have to ask one question: What would the city gain out of having one club? Of course, there are advantages because the top athletes throughout the three clubs would be competing for one, making it stronger at national level.

"But on the flip side, you have to think about the lesser athletes. At the moment, ourselves and Brighton and Hove have over 200 members each. Then there another 100 or so at Arena 80. That's 500 athletes.

"If you form one club, the lesser athletes won't get a look in and will more than likely switch elsewhere, outside of the city. I would envisage one super club only having 250 members.

"We should never lose sight of what the majority of members want and at our club there is certainly no strong noises for amalgamating."

Rather than look towards the three clubs marrying together, Simpson offers another idea.He suggests forming a county club for the top athletes.

He said: "The three clubs could continue running as they are and we could perhaps have a Sussex club made up of all the top athletes from throughout the county.

"That club could represent us at national level, while all the athletes in that set-up would also remain at their original clubs too.

"That would ensure that all three clubs would keep hold of its athletes and cater for everyone who is interested in taking up athletics in Brighton and Hove."

Arena 80 was formed in the early Eighties by Ron Grover to cater for joggers and cross-county runners. The club are particularly successful at national level at cross-country in the women's section.

Vice-chairman Chris Knight said that members of Arena 80 are staunchly against any merger with other two clubs, although are keen to work together with them for the benefit of all athletes in the area.

She said: "We like having our own identity and in Sussex League meetings it is only Brighton and Hove who give us a run for our money. If we joined together with them, we'd have no rivals.

"I joined Arena 80 because it was a club for all abilities and had there only been one club it is doubtful that I would have joined.

"It wouldn't be in our best interests to have one club.

"We do have to think about the development of top athletes. I'm not for a moment suggesting we should forget about the lesser athletes. There's nothing to stop having a team of lower standard competitors too. We can cater for everyone.

"At the moment, resources are being wasted. You will have three coaches instead of one, three secretaries instead of one and so on.

"I appreciate that any moves towards one club is not something which can happen in five minutes. Discussion needs to take place and there would be a lot of detail to sort out. But I really believe there should be an open discussion between us all."