Today is the final day for submissions to the Whyte Review and I wanted to remind members that you can still make submissions until 5pm. To anyone who has made a submission, thank you - your action will make our sport stronger.
The last few months have been extremely difficult. It is vital that we learn from this period. Those who have spoken out about their mistreatment in gymnastics must be heard. And change must happen.
That change must be progressive though. It shouldn’t see us discounting the positive steps we have already taken to make the sport safer and more welcoming for gymnasts.
In recent years we have worked hard to ensure you, our members, have access to important information such as safeguarding best practice, nutritional advice, and we have created new forums and official channels for you to voice any concerns. We must do more though.
Last year we implemented a new mandatory positive coaching course for all Level 2 and above coaches. So far, we have seen over 6500 coaches complete it. Following consultation with European Gymnastics, this e-learning course has been adopted to roll-out to all 49 federations across Europe.
In 2018 we recruited our first athlete ambassadors - 2012 Olympians, Kristian Thomas and Hannah England - and we now hold regular forums and meetings with members of our high-performance squads to better understand the collective athlete voice. These have been instrumental in helping us adapt to the needs of elite gymnasts.
We have a dedicated team working on gymnast wellbeing, covering everything from nutrition, mental health, physical conditioning, injury rehabilitation, and personal growth right through to advice on life beyond gymnastics. We have also implemented several new policies around weighing and optimising athlete health where we could see the need for change to continually improve and look after gymnast welfare.
I do not tell you this to suggest that everything is perfect, far from it. We have heard stories in recent months that definitively show these steps have not been enough and we are committed to doing more. But it would be wrong to claim these measures are not in place at all – they are an important foundation for us to build a better sport upon.
I want to recognise clubs and coaches for the fantastic job they do. Gymnastics would not exist without them. British Gymnastics is committed to working alongside coaches to ensure that the experience for gymnasts is a positive one and eradicates mistreatment. Abusive coaching methods have no place in our sport. None of us should turn a blind eye to this problem – we all have a role to play in making our sport better. And everyone at British Gymnastics is committed to ensuring that happens.
This is not just a UK wide issue. Globally there is a need for change too. We are steadfast in our desire to lead on this, helping to create appropriate worldwide standards. Anyone who does not adhere to these standards shouldn’t be allowed to operate anywhere within the gymnastics community.
It is imperative that British Gymnastics continues to make improvements to our Integrity Unit, strengthening the infrastructure for educating, policing, reporting and handling of complaints, and ensuring its independence in a transparent way. We recognise we must do better.
The findings of the Whyte Review will aid us in all of these things and help us build a better sport. We are fully committed to implementing its recommendations. It is British Gymnastics’ number one priority to make that happen and deliver a cultural change that ensures no gymnast ever feels that our organisation has not listened to them.
Everyone involved - gymnasts, coaches, administrators, parents and carers - must work together to affect real change. We must learn from those who have raised their voices in recent months and raise ours when we see an issue. We must act as one community, united by gymnastics and our sincere desire to make our incredible sport better and safer for all.
British Gymnastics CEO