UK Sport has announced a range of new initiatives to improve athlete welfare, including new funding and capability for the British Athletes Commission. The high performance sport agency is substantially increasing its investment in the independent BAC to £1million over the rest of the Tokyo 2020 cycle, to generate a three-fold increase in its capacity to support its members.
The BAC will now be able to operate with two caseworkers (one covering the North of the country and one the South) and provide permanent support to the athlete representatives in each Olympic and Paralympic World Class Programme. The aim is to provide a continuous and constructive engagement, rather than just responding to incidents and issues when they occur in sports.
The announcement came as UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport held the first of their Athlete Futures roadshow events at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre in Buckinghamshire on Wednesday. The roadshows – which will be held around the country over the rest of the year – are a major new initiative linking up current and former world class programme athletes with careers advice and workshops, and opportunities to meet with and hear from employers.
UK Sport today also released the high level findings of its Culture Health Check report, following an extensive consultation and survey with athletes, staff and stakeholders in the high performance system in 2017.
It found that more than 90 per cent of athletes and staff felt proud to be part of their world class programme, while more than 80 per cent of athletes and staff said that their programme encourages them to be the best they can be. It also found key areas of improvement including on better whistleblowing and reporting procedures, and on more support for mental health. The findings have now been analysed by sports and developed into meaningful action plans, as well as providing a benchmark level of data that sports can build on in future years as these plans are rolled out.
UK Sport Chair Dame Katherine Grainger said:
“Last year I challenged our system to be the best in the world at culture, governance and integrity in sport, just as we aim to be the best at performance. The Culture Health Check is an essential part of that process that will enable us to improve further and do the right thing more often. Making sure athletes and staff are working in a positive and respectful environment is quite simply the right thing to do as well as the smart thing to do.
“The result is a system that will be stronger both in terms of experience and performance. This is also just one part of our wide set of work on improving the culture in our world class programmes, developing our duty of care towards staff and athletes, and reforming the governance of sport.”
Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch MP said:
“It is vital that we have a system that puts the wellbeing and welfare of athletes and staff first. The Culture Health Check is an important step in the right direction to create the very best environment for them to work and perform in. While there are many positive results, any example of unacceptable behaviour is one too many. Sports should build on these results to improve the experiences of all athletes, coaches and staff."
British Athletes Commission Chair Victoria Aggar said:
“It’s great to see the value and belief in the BAC being recognised by UK Sport with this increase in funding for the current cycle. The funding will enable us to increase our capacity to offer impartial, confidential advice, support and guidance to athletes around issues that concern them, proactively and reactively, as well as support the development of the Athlete Representative network. We look forward to working with UK Sport, the national governing bodies and home country sports institutes to support a healthy and positive culture for all athletes.”
UK Sport Chief Executive Liz Nicholl said:
“Reviewing our investment in the British Athletes Commission with a view to strengthening its capability was one of the key points in the action plan we published last year. We are confident that under Vicki Aggar’s leadership the BAC will be available to provide the quality of support that athletes need. The Commission’s work will complement and reinforce all the other work going on in our world class programmes and across the system, including the Culture Health Check, the Code for Sports Governance, our Sports Integrity function at UK Sport and our culture and people development programmes.
“The Athlete Futures Network is also all about providing an enhanced level of support for athletes when planning for their future careers. Katherine is one brilliant example of how skills and competencies gained as an athlete can be effectively applied in the world of work. Athletes learn many transferable skills including teamwork, problem solving, dealing with pressure and a commitment to continuous improvement, and would be assets to many organisations.”