MPs to question sports minister Tracey Crouch on British Gymnastics crisis


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Authors: Rio Sports

Tracey Crouch, the sports minister, will be questioned on Tuesday on the unfurling crisis within British Gymnastics as the governing body remains in dispute with its biggest stars over World Class Performance Programme contracts. Crouch will appear before the government’s digital, culture, media and sport select committee as part of its inquiry into sports governance.

The revealed on Monday that the entire men’s artistic gymnastics team, including the double Olympic champion Max Whitlock, had rejected draft versions of contracts, stating they would not sign them until alterations were made. British Gymnastics is meeting athletes, agents and parents on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the situation.

The governing body released a lengthy statement on Monday night in which it said it was “currently in consultation” with the athletes over the contracts. It added: “British Gymnastics is working hard to ensure all athletes are comfortable with the agreement before signing. To date, over 50% have already signed the agreement. No athlete has refused to sign and the consultation process is still ongoing. We do not believe there is any serious conflict with our athletes, who are valued members of British Gymnastics.”

The DCMS committee chair, Damian Collins, has pledged to push Crouch on the protection given to athletes over contracts, which they must sign to receive funding from UK Sport. As a non-departmental body of the DCMS, UK Sport is answerable to Crouch. She is also expected to face questions about accountability for UK Sport funded governing bodies.

Several coaches had also told the they felt there was a “culture of fear” within British Gymnastics presided over by its chief executive, Jane Allen, and they had therefore lost faith in her leadership. British Gymnastics strongly denies these allegations.

It is the latest Olympic sport to receive such criticism, following similar allegations in cycling, rowing, bobsleigh and equestrianism.

The former gymnast Dan Keatings, a world silver medallist, said the culture within British Gymnastics was nothing new. “This has been going on for years,” he wrote on Twitter. “Really glad to see the gymnasts are now sticking up for themselves.” Keatings, who retired in January, also told the BBC he experienced “bullying and manipulation” throughout his career in the sport, and “fear is very, very real”. He added: “I’m one of the athletes that was never able to say anything because I was scared of not being selected for the team which then leads to losing funding.”

Crouch will also be grilled over what has been called an “intimidation” tactic used by UK Sport against Jess Varnish, the cyclist who is taking legal action against the funding body and British Cycling. Varnish is suing for sex discrimination, detriment for whistleblowing, victimisation and unfair dismissal. Collins is known to take a dim view of UK Sport’s application to freeze Varnish’s assets, which would have forced her to drop her claim had it been successful.

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