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British Gymnastics to adopt “zero tolerance” safeguarding reforms



Following the Whyte Review, which identified “systemic” issues of abuse in the sphere of gymnastics, the governing body British Gymnastics, has vowed to “break the cycle of poor past practise” by introducing a comprehensive programme of reforms. This will affect the way that staff or volunteers related to the practise of gymnastics are vetted and selected, before gaining membership with British Gymnastics, or employment in the sphere.

The Whyte Review

The Whyte Review, led by Anne Whyte QC, was a 306-page report investigating incidents of physi-cal, emotional and sexual abuse in the sphere of British gymnastics.

The report detailed incidents of coaches forcing athletes to continue training with broken bones; excessive weight management leading to eating disorders; athletes being shouted and sworn at; and even in some instances, sexual abuse.

The period of time covered by the report was between 2008 and 2020, assessing British gymnas-tics from grass roots to elite levels. During this time, 3,800 complaints of abuse were received by the governing body, British Gymnastics.

The report concluded that there was a sense that British Gymnastics had "not only failed to pre-vent or limit such behaviours but had condoned some of them in the pursuit of national and in-ternational competitive success.”

"Reform 25"

The programme of reforms proposed by British Gymnastics is named ‘Reform 25’ and is a 40-point action plan to be introduced in four phases up to 2025.

Included in the action plan is the publication of a list of banned coaches on the British Gymnastics website; this list will be monitored and updated by an independent body.

The action plan also names former Olympic rower and Foreign Office diplomat, Dr Catherine Bish-op, to become an expert independent advisor who can provide additional scrutiny and perspec-tive on how the reforms are implemented.

The organisation plans to broaden the number of roles which are required to have a British Gym-nastics membership, to include dance choreographers, masseurs and physiotherapists.

“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.”
- Sarah Powell, Chief Executive of British Gymnastics

Important first steps

The publication of the names of banned coaches has been welcomed by critics of the new reform plans such as Claire Heafford, founder of Gym-nasts For Change.

Heafford has suggested that more could be done however, citing that greater oversight of the reforms and an independent ombudsman would be beneficial, she told the BBC that:

"British Gymnastics doesn't have a good track record of mark-ing their own homework."

Both UK Sport and Sport England issued a joint statement commenting that the points in the action plan were "important first steps on a long-term journey of change".

Should any educational or leisure establishments employ external coaches or volunteers to carry out gymnastics tutoring or even dance choreography, the list of banned coaches on the British Gymnastics website should be consulted first, to ensure the safeguarding of any children or athletes involved.

Click here to read the full Reform 25 report.

 
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