Gymnastic funding bodies outline increased safeguarding plans to tackle abuse

Funding bodies of gymnastics have published their response to tackling the appalling culture of the sport in the wake of Anne Whyte QC’s Final Report. Our abuse expert Chelsea Pye breaks down their five key objectives and the future of gymnastics.

31 January 2023

Gym Fitness

Funding bodies of gymnastics have published their response to tackling the appalling culture of the sport in the wake of Anne Whyte QC’s Final Report, published on the 16th June 2022.

More information on important findings from the report can be found here Whyte Report on Abuse In Gymnastics.

The proposed commitments have come from UK Sport and Sport England and are designed to tackle the report’s shocking findings, which deemed the welfare of gymnasts was not central within the culture.

UK Sport and Sport England response

The response from UK Sport and Sport England focused on these 5 key objectives. These are:

1. Coaching/Workforce Support

They have proposed to form an independent representative body for coaches to assist with providing coaches and workforce with leadership, representation, and support. This includes the soon to be launched ‘Play Their Way’ Campaign which focuses on supporting coaches to sustain child participation through a more inclusive approach.

2. Performance Athlete Support

UK Sport has vowed to ensure athletes are involved in the development of their ‘high-performance policy’ in association with the British Elite Athletes Association. UK Sport has also promised to ensure that programmes have representation from real athletes in its decision-making structures.

3. Good Governance

The programme will adhere to the requirements of the Code for Sports Governance, including the need to appoint a director to take on welfare and safety work at the Board-level. This is to ensure effective policies and procedures are easy to follow, and that a ‘win well’ approach is promoted within the culture.

4. Dispute Resolution

UK Sport advises that all sports in receipt of their funding will be required to use Sport Integrity, the new independent disclosure and investigations service. The service will be used to investigate allegations of bullying, discrimination, harassment, or abuse in high-performance programmes.

5. Safer environments for participants

UK Sport will research the relationship between funding and medal targets, and how this impacts athlete experience.

More information on these objectives can be found here UK Sport and Sport England move to strengthen safeguarding and welfare across sport | UK Sport

The future for gymnastics

Chelsea Pye, Solicitor at Slater and Gordon’s Abuse and Public Inquiries team, recognises the positives of UK Sport and Sport England’s response however raises concerns on how these objectives will be implemented, and when they will be achieved.

“My concern is that the money will be generated from rapidly increasing capacity across funded high-performance programmes, creating what is arguably a very unpredictable and potentially unsafe environment for young athletes in the interim.

More communication about the plan to achieve the objectives set is important, not only to accomplish them, but to also reassure young athletes in the industry.”

Not all recommendations from the Whyte Report have been addressed, and Chelsea Pye fears young athletes will not be sufficiently protected from pressure to train excessively. Clarity on how ‘child labour’ will be addressed is vital, and what these organisations will do to ensure harmful power dynamics are tackled.

“This kind of culture of emotional and physical abuse is ingrained within some organisations and cannot be eliminated overnight. Manipulation, grooming and abusive behaviour within an insular organisation is not something that can be easily reversed.

Some elite level gymnasts recognise this, often bringing about a forced end to a promising career had it not been for the emotional and physical abuse which was highlighted in Anne Whyte QC’s Final Report.”

Culture within sport too often shifts from encouraging the best out of young athletes through enjoyment but sadly, as the reports have shown, achievement is elicited through physical and emotional abuse.

“I applaud the bravery of young gymnasts coming forward recently and publicly sharing their experiences. It takes real courage to talk about abuse and we must all speak up to ensure we achieve a safer world in sport.”

Our specialist abuse claims solicitors have decades of experience working with victims and survivors. As a team, we will continue to fight for compensation for our clients and encourage anyone impacted by abuse to contact us.

Our experts are experienced in handling cases involving highly sensitive matters, including sexual abuse. We professionally and compassionately support victims of abuse to obtain compensation from the people and organisations responsible for their injuries.

For a confidential discussion of your potential case, please call us on 0330 041 5869.

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