British Gymnastics to name banned coaches in ‘zero tolerance’ plan on abuse


British Gymnastics will name banned coaches as part of plans for “zero tolerance on abuse” and putting athlete welfare ahead of winning medals.

It follows the Whyte Review which detailed “systemic” issues of physical and emotional abuse in gymnastics, as well as some incidents of sexual abuse.

British Gymnastics says it will “break the cycle of poor past practice”.

It will hire an independent expert to monitor reforms and name coaches serving bans in future on its website.

By the end of 2022, the governing body plans to close a rules loophole by broadening the roles that require British Gymnastics membership to include choreographers, physios and masseurs.

Earlier this year, British Gymnastics said it was “monitoring” a gymnastics club in Bristol after a former coach, who is no longer permitted to carry out some roles, was hired to work with children.

The damning £3m Whyte Review outlined in a 306-page report incidents of athletes being made to train on broken bones, punished for needing the toilet and sat on by coaches.

Gymnasts were subjected to excessive weight management – which left some with eating disorders described as the “tyranny of the scales” by Anne Whyte KC.

Athletes were shouted and sworn at and had their bags searched for food.

The report anonymised the hundreds of athlete submissions it received and did not identify individual coaches.

Sarah Powell, chief executive of British Gymnastics, said: “We need everyone in gymnastics, in any role at any level, to commit to collectively doing everything we possibly can to prevent any recurrence of abuse or mistreatment.

“We’ve got things wrong in the past and change must start with us. We’ve already made progress but there’s still much more to do.”

What is British Gymnastics planning?

Under its ‘Reform 25’external-link programme, a 40-point action plans will be introduced, in four phases leading up to 2025:

  • Reforms focused across four areas – culture and strategy; welfare, safeguarding and complaints; education and development; performance.
  • Zero tolerance of any abuse – working with clubs, coaches, gymnasts and parents to ensure an “open, transparent, caring, empowered and safe environment”.
  • Better support for those involved in complaints.
  • “Move away from prioritising medals” to focus on a positive culture.
  • Acknowledgement of “poor and outdated practice” within the sport and pledge to create a new generation of coaches.
  • List of banned coaches will be published on the British Gymnastics website.
  • Former Olympic rower and Foreign Office diplomat Dr Catherine Bishop, a leadership consultant, to become an expert independent advisor.
  • Parents and gymnasts to be involved in decisions about development, training loads, and competition age limits.
  • Progress updates to be published every six months.

How did we get there?

In the 12-year period covered by the Whyte Review to August 2020 – during which British Gymnastics was granted more than £38m in UK Sport funding – the governing body received approximately 3,800 complaints.

The report said the difficulties now facing British Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, are “borne of inadequate practice and procedure”, and reflect a culture that was the product of “the way in which people behaved and were allowed to behave”.

There was a sense, it added, that British Gymnastics had “not only failed to prevent or limit such behaviours but had condoned some of them in the pursuit of national and international competitive success”.

Bishop said: “I am glad that British Gymnastics has recognised the importance of bringing in different perspectives specifically to challenge and strengthen their work.”

Claire Heafford, founder of campaign group Gymnasts For Change, welcomed the naming of banned coaches and Bishop’s appointment but said she would like to see greater oversight and an independent ombudsman.

“British Gymnastics doesn’t have a good track record of marking their own homework,” she told BBC Sport.

She said only one of 38 legal claims brought by gymnasts had been resolved and called for the process to be speeded up.

The delays had caused “ongoing unnecessary anxiety and mental health issues”, said Heafford.

A joint statement from UK Sport and Sport England said the response and action plan from British Gymnastics were “important first steps on a long-term journey of change”.

Abuse in gymnastics – timeline & BBC reporting on this story

The Whyte Review report did not mention individual coaches or athletes.

  • July 2020: Nicole Pavier is among a number of gymnasts to make the first allegations of a “culture of fear” within the “mentally and emotionally abusive” sport of gymnastics.
  • Olympians Becky and Ellie Downie say abusive behaviour in gymnastics training became “ingrained” and “completely normalised”, and then-British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen says she is “appalled and ashamed” by the allegations.
  • Olympic bronze medallist Amy Tinkler criticises British Gymnastics for the time it has taken to investigate a formal complaint she made in 2019.
  • A helpline is launched by the NSPCC and British Athletes Commission to support gymnasts. It receives more than 120 calls in its first five weeks.
  • August 2020: The Whyte Review is formally started.
  • Pavier’s former coach, Claire Barbieri, is suspended, while British Gymnastics’ head national coach Amanda Reddin steps aside after allegations are made against her. Both denied the allegations made against them.
  • Olympic bronze medallist Nile Wilson alleges gymnasts are “treated like pieces of meat”.
  • September 2020: Two further coaches – Helen Potter and Rory Weavers – are temporarily suspended pending investigation. Both denied the allegations made against them. Their temporary suspension has since been lifted.
  • October 2020: British Gymnastics chief executive Allen announces she will retire in December.
  • November 2020: British Gymnastics sets up an independent complaints process to oversee allegations of mistreatment by athletes.
  • February 2021: A group of 17 start legal action against British Gymnastics. A further 20 later join the group claim.
  • June 2021: Sarah Powell is named British Gymnastics chief executive, and says she is “under no illusions about the scale of change needed” to improve the culture at the organisation.
  • August 2021: British Gymnastics chair Mike Darcey apologises to the gymnastics community for failing to act on allegations of mistreatment.
  • April 2022: BBC Sport reveals leading coach Liz Kincaid was pulled from Great Britain’s coaching squad just weeks before the Tokyo Olympics after a serious allegation was made against her. She denied wrongdoing.
  • May 2022: National head coach Reddin steps down from her position with immediate effect. Previous claims against her were not upheld and her suspension was lifted, but another independent investigation is ongoing into “further historical complaints”.
  • June 2022: BBC Sport reveals ex-acrobatic gymnast Eloise Jotischky is the first to win a civil case against British Gymnastics for the abuse she experienced in the sport, with the organisation admitting full liability.
  • The Whyte Review is published.
  • British Gymnastics said it is “monitoring” a gymnastics club after Jotischky’s former coach Andrew Griffiths was hired to work with children.
  • October 2022: British Gymnastics issues 40-point action plan as it pledges “zero tolerance” on abuse.

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