Dame Katherine Grainger calls on sports to rise to culture challenge

Published 20 November 2017

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Dame Katherine Grainger today calls on UK high performance sports to “rise to the challenge” of improving the system’s culture.

The multiple Olympic medallist and chair of UK Sport will be speaking on the first day of the National Lottery-supported funding agency’s World Class Performance Conference in Manchester. She will say that raising the bar on sports’ duty of care towards athletes will help build on the UK’s success at the London and Rio Games, as well as being “the right thing to do”.

Dame Katherine will also be visiting the Manchester Velodrome on Monday and meeting with athletes from the UK’s world leading cycling and taekwondo squads to discuss how a high quality culture will help create more success, not less. As well as acknowledging the significant challenges that have been raised, she will stress that the UK has world-leading examples of good practice that can be shared and is seeing these for herself as part of a visits programme that is taking in every Olympic and Paralympic sport at training centres across the country.

The comments come as UK Sport releases new guidance, developed in conjunction with athletes and staff, to its world class programmes on culture within the unique and pressurised environment of high performance sport. It identifies four ‘golden threads’ of a positive and winning sporting culture (inspiration; integrity; the pursuit of excellence; and respect) as well as providing extensive practical guidance and recommendations for staff throughout the system, tailored to 12 ‘critical moments’ in an athlete’s journey through their sport.

It is the latest in a series of initiatives that UK Sport is leading on improving sporting cultures, including a root and branch review of policies across the high performance system; the new Code for Sports Governance; a ‘culture health check’ survey and early warning system across all world class programmes; a new sports integrity function that will help ensure all complaints are dealt with appropriately; and work to enhance the voice of athletes within the system.

Speaking ahead of the conference, UK Sport Chair Dame Katherine Grainger said:

“I recognise and accept that there have been a number of difficult issues across a range of sports in recent months that have challenged our system, and we have to rise to that challenge. These issues do not take away from the achievements of our athletes and coaches, but neither can we brush them under the carpet or just hope that they go away.

“We have to aim to be the best in the world at athlete welfare, culture, governance and integrity just as we aim to be so in performance. And we have to be seen to be the best in order to maintain public trust and pride in our achievements. We have done a lot already but there is a lot more to do. In particular we have to concentrate on putting these new and improved policies into action.

“Getting our culture right is simply the right thing to do. This isn’t about putting welfare before performance because there isn’t a choice between the two. I genuinely believe that a better culture will lead to a stronger system and that in turn will help improve performances.”

Writing in the foreword to the ‘Culture Capture’ guidance, UK Sport Director of Performance Chelsea Warr says:

“Since the advent of Lottery funding over 20 years ago, the UK high performance system has experienced a rapid rise in success to the extent that it is now envied by many other nations around the world. In particular the Beijing, London and Rio Games have seen a period of unparalleled success that has inspired the nation. To ensure we maintain that momentum during this Olympic and Paralympic cycle, it is essential that we avoid complacency and continue to be mindful of not just ‘what’ we deliver but ‘how’ we go about it. It’s about putting people, the high performance system’s greatest asset, at the heart of everything we do.”

Follow updates from the World Class Performance Conference 2017 on Twitter @uk_sport.

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