UK Athletics Publishes Final Independent Safeguarding Report

UK Athletics has published a final report to mark the full implementation of the Christopher Quinlan QC safeguarding review recommendations.

UKA, in collaboration with the Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs), has implemented all six core recommendations and 23 additional recommendations from the independent review, providing a framework to ensure the highest standards are maintained in the future.

For the Full Report CLICK HERE

Message from Joanna Coates, UKA CEO:

Sport should always be a force for good. Sadly, it hasn’t always been. In the past, athletics and many other sports allowed environments to be created in which bad things could happen under their cover.

UK Athletics are extremely grateful to Christopher Quinlan QC for the work undertaken
in 2019-20, which demonstrated that UK Athletics and our Home Country Athletics Federation (HCAF) partners, as a collective, had been operating at sub-optimal levels in many areas, which is, quite frankly, unacceptable. At UK Athletics and alongside the HCAFs, we are determined to ensure that can never happen again. It is our view that sporting achievement and reputation must never again be placed ahead of the safety of athletes or the wider athletics workforce.

To deliver on that, we have recently made sweeping changes to our policies, so both athletes and the wider athletics workforce are better protected. With a zero-tolerance mindset – one offence is one too many – we now have tougher, more appropriate penalties, and UK Athletics has become the overarching safeguarding body for all the home countries for the first time, with a completely new safeguarding team appointed in 2021.

However, the successful implementation of the Quinlan recommendations is only the starting point, and changing our internal policies is only one small part of a fundamental change in culture that is required so people feel comfortable in identifying and reporting poor behaviour. Such a culture needs to be crystal clear about what is acceptable behaviour and what is unacceptable. Grey areas must be erased.

The majority of the athletics workforce are great people giving up their time to develop and grow athletes in a progressive and holistic manner. They, like us, are deeply troubled when they learn of anyone being abused, either mentally or physically, within athletics. Our sport has on occasions been dragged down by the actions of a rotten few. But we must be realistic; simply saying we will better educate the workforce will not remove threats – the few doing wrong already know they are doing wrong. We must be stronger and do more if we are to do right by our athletes and the wider athletics community.

Some poor behaviour has seemingly become normalised over the years, in particular, excessive physical contact during coaching sessions, and clear red-lines must be drawn. We are putting in place an education process for the sport to help everyone understand unacceptable behaviours and how they can challenge and report them.

We are determined to remove any barriers to this happening. We understand people will not report inappropriate behaviours if they do not have faith in the process that should
be protecting them. As a result, we have developed a new athlete- and people-focused reporting mechanism, My Concern, to provide assurance that a complaint is being properly dealt with. Our new policies back that up, providing an ability to issue sanctions appropriate to the offence, protecting those making complaints. That includes ensuring people who should be banned for life are banned for life. In fact, the UKA Board has committed both within a policy and case decision making context, to adopt a zero-tolerance approach where our approach is to investigate and prosecute and ask for the maximum ban available where the case merits it and there is power to do so within the independent process.

We are also working to remove the grey areas some suspended individuals may seek to exploit. We are committed to sharing related information across sports and countries via international federations to ensure bureaucracy does not create an opportunity for those identified as risks.

We have been clear under the new Executive Team at UKA, that the sport only functions effectively when we put athletes and people first. Our enhanced approach to safeguarding is designed to do that. That doesn’t mean we assume that all coaches and other roles within the sport are a problem, far from it. Our sport cannot function without brilliant people. But for too long we have allowed a few bad apples to taint the vast majority of,
in particular, coaches working hard for athletes up and down the country.

We will never be complacent. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure athletes and others in our sport operate in a safe, fulfilling and enjoyable environment at all times. But we do need help if we are to go as far as I want us to.

We are also communicating with national partners and government ministers, asking them to consult within sport on creating an independent safeguarding body to take ownership of controversial cases when a sport cannot take them further for reasons of internal conflict or financial restrictions. The truth is that some smaller sports cannot afford to take all the action they would like in these cases. We are also asking government to make all controlling abuse (sexual, physical or psychological) an offence, whether on children or adults. It is wrong that we presently deal with this based on the age of the victim (i.e., children under 18 or adults classed ‘at risk’) when it is unacceptable for all.

If the behaviour we are seeking to prevent and punish were to take place in any other part of society, there would be serious repercussions. We must remove any risk of those repercussions not happening in sport and ensure we have the support we need. I hope the Government will help us provide even greater protection so sport is not treated differently just because there are medals to be won.

Joanna Coates,
UK Athletics CEO, on behalf of the Board and Executive Team

If you have a concern to submit CLICK HERE