After nearly two years, the Anne Whyte QC Report has been released. At 309 pages, it is both comprehensive and detailed, with over 400 call-to-evidence submissions involved in its findings.
The report was commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England following a significant number of allegations regarding mistreatment within the sport of gymnastics, as well as claims that British Gymnastics had failed to deal with the complaints it received appropriately. Safeguarding has been, and is now, a hot topic over recent years, and there is a clear movement within the sporting sector to ensure that the athlete’s voice remains at the centre of decision-making, whether that’s in an elite or a grassroots club.
This report highlights, however, that the culture of a governing body or sporting organisation has a profound impact on those participating in the sport but that, as Anne states: “One of the common themes running through the disclosures was a sense that the Governing Body in the UK, British Gymnastics, had not only failed to prevent or limit such behaviours, but had condoned them”.
Sarah Powell, the new CEO of British Gymnastics, responded yesterday by apologising and admitting that she found reading the report “emotional”. She stated that British Gymnastics accepted all the recommendations and will take steps to restore confidence in British Gymnastics. She added that it was important for children to enjoy the sport of gymnastics, but that the Governing Body would need to rebuild trust, something that wasn’t going to be easy.
The report has 17 recommendations covering the themes that the Anne Whyte QC report was expected to deal with. Most of them mirror the recommendations that Clive Sheldon QC made last year, with both reports highlighting the need for a safeguarding agenda to be driven openly and transparently at Board level.
We often see organisations falling short of this, simply due to a lack of training and communication regarding the safeguarding agenda. Those in a position of responsibility, whether staff or volunteers, should be aware of safeguarding risks and any control measures that their sporting organisation has in place.
A robust safeguarding regime is no longer a tick-box exercise within an organisation’s general compliance package, but a necessity for the protection of children, young adults and adults at risk when participating in any level of sport.