As founders of organisations with backgrounds in athletics, we have lived experience of the suffering and trauma within the athletics community caused and perpetuated by antiquated systems that did not have our athletes’ safety and protection at their heart.
Through the work of our respective organisations, we have had countless conversations with victims of abuse and athletes who suffered abusive coaching. We strive to lobby and campaign for a sporting environment which protects, respects and celebrates women and girls in sport.
However, we also believe it is important to support and highlight institutions and leaders who are doing good work in this space.
Both our organisations were created because of the frustration and anger we experienced with the governing bodies of athletics, and the lack of action taken to right the wrongs and improve the culture of the sport.
Since the formation of the new UKA administration in March 2020, our experience of working with UKA, and in particular CEO, Joanna Coates and Development Director, Mark Munro, from day one has been nothing but positive.
They have continually welcomed the work and insights we have shared with them. They have made themselves available to us, acting in a compassionate and empathetic way to every situation we have brought to their attention; to suggest otherwise is inaccurate and disregards their progressive work. We fear this kind of dialogue may deter other leaders from taking action to protect their athletes, and also deter athletes from having trust in their sports governing bodies.
Our organisations support some of the most vulnerable in the sport, we stand by UKA and Joanna Coates. We see their care and passion towards creating a better future for all in this sport.
To date, we are aware of the following changes that have been made:
- Implementation of the “Zero Tolerance Policy” as campaigned for by the founders of KyniskaAdvocacy, as well as Anna Gordon which means the life time bans for coaches found guilty of sexual abuse and misconduct.
- Introduction of an anonymised reporting system to submit concerns and complaints of abuse, no matter how big or small, called MyConcern.
- Recruitment of a new Head of Safeguarding to oversee the new and historic cases being investigated actioning the Zero Tolerance Policy implementation.
- Funding to reopen historic cases that were not appropriately dealt with.
- Redesign of the UK Athletics website to ease access to support resources.
- UK Athletics’ operational plan titled “Athletics Unified” with a focus on this being the “Age of the Athlete”.
We know that there is more work to be done. In the future, we want to see the following (not-exhaustive list) changes, not just in athletics, but in sports across the UK:
- A sport-wide database listing banned coaches which is easily signposted.
- Enhanced safeguarding courses within the coaching qualification certificates.
- Athlete welfare toolkits to guide and support athletes through the reporting process.
- Public acknowledgement from sports’ national governing bodies when a coach is banned, or in some cases, imprisoned.
- Sport-wide Zero Tolerance Policy for abusive coaches.
Cultural and systemic change does not happen overnight. It takes bold, persistent and concerted action from people who care. How lucky are we as a sport that we now have those people in charge.
Mhairi Maclennan, Kate Seary and Vicky Huyton
Founders of Kyniska and Founder of the FCN