The chair of British Gymnastics has urged the government to establish an independent welfare body to protect athletes across all sports, and to ensure that governing bodies no longer incur substantial costs when handling cases of athlete protection.
Mike Darcey stated, in a notable intervention, that while the benefits of participating in sport were evident, the number of abuse allegations across multiple sports in recent years – including British Cycling, British Swimming, British Bobsleigh, and British Athletics – demonstrated that the current system frequently left complainants unhappy and in limbo as they awaited justice.
Darcey told, “It is time to bite the bullet.” “It is time for the government to acknowledge that action is necessary. As a nation, we must demonstrate that athlete welfare is as important to us as the medal table.”
Darcey said the new institution will include investigators, safeguarding experts, and adjudicators like UK Anti-Doping to promote safe British sports.
“Such a body would also have clear economies of scale,” he explained.
“Instead of asking 40 different Olympic sports to manage their systems. We could have a centralized body that serves as a center of excellence.” We would also remove conflicts of interest from the system, which would increase everyone’s confidence in the outcome.”
In the wake of the Whyte Review, which uncovered horrifying instances of bullying, abuse, and discrimination. Darcey said British Gymnastics had yet to handle all 1,326 welfare and safe sports team issues since July 2020.
“It’s difficult because we have a substantial backlog, and complaints are at an all-time high due to increased awareness and willingness to speak out, which is positive,” he said. Despite our success, the athletes and everyone involved deserve more than we can provide.
Darcey stated that the current approach was flawed in at least three ways. First, British Gymnastics was “ill-equipped to handle these cases”. Because it lacked the expertise and resources to conduct a large-scale quasi-judicial proceeding. Second, complainants were frequently required to wait too long for justice. Thirdly, British Gymnastics operates as an investigator, judge, and jury, therefore one side often thought it was biassed.
“Even if we had vastly more resources, I doubt we could ever escape the fact that as a national governing body we sit in the middle, make the rules, and serve as investigator, judge, and jury,” he stated. “I believe that is a precarious position for any NGB to be in.”
British Gymnastics is not the only organization facing rising security costs.
British Athletics spent £600,000 on similar cases last year and is currently fighting bankruptcy. “Sports can find themselves in a precarious position where they must either spend so much money on this that the financial health of the NGB is jeopardized, or they must reduce spending in other areas,” Darcey explained. Therefore, there is a succession of poor options, none of which are desirable.
Tanni Grey-Thompson’s 2017 report recommended a comparable autonomous body. Darcey noted, however, that little has transpired since then. “However, we want young athletes and their parents to feel confident that the sports they are sending their children to participate in are safe, and that if something goes wrong, it will be handled appropriately,” he said.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport did not comment explicitly on Darcey’s telephone calls. In a statement, however, it stated that it remained “committed to ensuring that sport is as safe as possible for everyone and will continue to work with the sector to strengthen the system as necessary.”