2018 is a milestone year for British Gymnastics as we celebrate our 130th year.
In the second in a series of interviews with key staff, we speak to Richard Evans, British Gymnastics Integrity Director, about how we are ensuring the safety of those that take part in our sport.
Help us understand your role as Integrity Director
"Our integrity team looks after all aspects of ethical behaviour and safe sport, including safeguarding, data protection, governance, standards of conduct, health and safety, equality and disciplinary matters across the gymnastics community. I see my role as Integrity Director being to make sure that we always do the right thing, that British Gymnastics treats everybody fairly and with respect and that everyone involved can enjoy our sport safely."
What’s the thing you’re most passionate about?
"Ethical behaviour. I want people who come in to gymnastics, and their families to know whoever they are they can achieve amazing things and be confident that they’ll be physically and emotionally safe and fairly treated."
What are the biggest challenges you face and what are you doing to tackle them?
"I’m trying to ensure we keep up with social and regulatory change and do our very best to support the gymnastics community to meet everyone’s needs. The fast-changing face of social media is a great example. New platforms become popular almost overnight and they are used in different ways. We work hard to make sure we set relevant standards and provide practical advice to clubs, coaches and members on how to use it safely.
"Data protection is another area that in the last year has seen massive change in regulations and people’s expectations. We’ve all had to adapt quickly and ensure we support our member clubs with a practical understanding of the GDPR and how to comply.
"We regularly update and adapt our policies to reflect changes in the sport, or in social values and legislation or to strengthen effective protection of our members. Recent examples include updates to our member rules, a new complaints and disciplinary policy and guidance on inclusion of transgender gymnasts in competitions. We have to make sure we keep up to date, communicate well and prepare our member clubs and stakeholders for change, as well as supporting them to work together with us for the benefit of all members."
How do you ensure that you’re focused on the things that matter most?
"I try to think about everything in the context of what we need to do to ensure we have a safe sport. The integrity unit can’t operate in isolation: to be successful we have to influence and really be integrated with the whole organisation and gymnastics community. If I can help us to focus on ‘what do we have to do to make sure everyone is treated fairly, everyone is safe, everybody is able to achieve and enjoy our amazing sport in a safe environment’, then we should get our priorities right."
"We’re making some specific changes to improve our service. We’re creating a new disciplinary and compliance role to deal with allegations of poor practice and breaches of standards of conduct separately from safeguarding issues. This change should help us investigate allegations thoroughly but also to resolve them as quickly as possible.
"We are working with Agility, our external health and safety provider, to develop our health and safety service for clubs. A lot of the activity will focus on education, awareness and communication, to make sure that all clubs know about the health and safety service available to them as part of their membership and their responsibilities as an employer or service provider. Our service includes a free helpline for clubs, help with health and safety risk assessments and advice on accident reporting, so clubs should expect to see lots of information and awareness-raising work in this area!"
Why work for British Gymnastics?
"I’ve had a lot of different roles in different organisations and sectors during my career and this is the organisation that I most enjoy being part of. It’s very open, and constructive - we support each other very well and I find it a fun place to work. I enjoy the interactions with clubs, coaches, welfare officers - and gymnasts of course. I think the real buzz comes from us all being focused on the same thing – gymnastics: we are all working together to make sure it thrives.
"When I do get the chance I love going out to events and visiting clubs. When I see children taking their first steps in gymnastics, world class athletes doing amazing routines in a big arena or as I witnessed recently the incredible skills of gymnasts at the British Disability Gymnastics Championships and I think, I’m part of this - it’s fantastic."