No coaches banned after gymnastics abuse investigation

Vault - REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Vault - REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

British Gymnastics has admitted that not a single coach reported to the Whyte Review has received a ban, more than nine months since the damning abuse investigation was published.

Anne Whyte KC's £3 million inquiry into gymnastics – funded by UK Sport and Sport England – was published last June, nearly two years after a "culture of fear" was exposed in the sport.

The review implicated 90 clubs and 100 coaches, outlining how gymnasts as young as seven were subjected to mental, physical and, in some cases, sexual abuse.

But nine months on, British Gymnastics CEO Sarah Powell confirmed to Telegraph Sport that, while there have been coaching expulsions in the sport since then, there have been zero bans for coaches specifically linked to the Whyte Review.

Major questions raised over speed of safeguarding process

Telegraph Sport understands that a number of those cases remain ongoing or were escalated straight to law enforcement, but it raises major questions around the speed of the safeguarding processes.

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Last October British Gymnastics also promised to publish a list of coaches and members who had been banned, as part of a 40-point action plan to reform the sport, but that is also yet to materialise nearly six months on.

When asked the reason behind the delays, Powell pointed out that the complaints process had partly been contracted out to Sports Resolutions and said implementing "systemic change" took time.

She is hopeful the list of banned coaches and BG members will be published within the next two months and confirmed that, after listening to feedback, BG's list will include historic cases too.

'We wanted to look at what actually brings real change'

"I understand why that question is being asked, [but] there were a lot of foundations I needed to put in place," Powell said of the delays. "We really tried to make sure it was systemic and transformational change, that takes time to understand. We could have just put one quick fix in, and we didn't. We wanted to look at what actually brings that real change.

"There’s still challenges around dealing with the cases which are historical and we’re trying to put extra resources into that. We’ve appointed a new director of safe sport and welfare. To do these things fairly and robustly we need to follow a process. A lot of that is independent of us, with Sports Resolutions and the independent complaint process, but I’m relentless with it. Until all of that is resolved, we can’t move on in the positive way that I want us to. It’s a big area of work for us."

Powell, who was appointed in June 2021 and tasked with cleaning up the sport, added that BG had made significant recruitment decisions to help implement cultural change within the organisation – including expanding the safeguarding team, hiring new performance directors and a director of education.

She spoke exclusively with Telegraph Sport at the launch of the organisation's new vision for the sport, partnering with all four home nation gymnastics governing bodies for the first time to announce "Leap without Limits". The vision promises to prioritise "uplifting experiences for all" in the sport, focusing on inclusiveness and enjoyment rather than medals, at recreational and elite level.

While BG has been praised for the cultural improvements already being experienced within the elite performance pathways, the delays experienced by abuse survivors has been criticised. A group legal action against BG is still hanging over the organisation and activists remain frustrated with the slow progress being made.


'The promise to resolve our claims has yet to materialise'

“Today we feel proud that the campaign work of Gymnasts for Change and the voices of all those who contributed to the Whyte Review has had a direct and meaningful impact on the future direction of the sport," Claire Heafford, co-founder of lobbying group Gymnasts for Change, told Telegraph Sport. “However, to date just one out of 39 cases in our group legal action has been settled ... The promise Sarah Powell made on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour last October to resolve our claims has yet to materialise.

"To date there has been no meaningful engagement with survivors. No restorative process has been offered or entered into with survivors. No support has been provided to survivors... The sentiment of the [Leap without Limits] video is great but the reality of dealing with BG to work toward systemic and meaningful change remains very different.”

On Monday Powell also called for an independent body for sports safeguarding in the UK, due to the sheer volume of abuse complaints and the pattern of safeguarding scandals seen across British sport in recent years.

"There's no two ways about it, because we’re all tackling the same issues," she said. "To prevent duplication, to prevent the perception of involvement [of the governing bodies], we need to set up this body quickly which will help rebuild that confidence and trust in sport.

"Sport is about fun, engagement, community, and at the moment we’re talking more about reviews and investigations than we are actually about what the sport is all about."