A Sport Integrity Forum has been launched “to mend the cracks in the system” in the wake of the gymnastics abuse scandal and other concerns around bullying, discrimination and corruption in British sport.
The forum, which has the backing of the government, will bring sports organisations together to come up with new ideas to tackle integrity issues and to better protect athletes. It comes as the NSPCC and British Athletes Commission revealed that 120 people had come forward in the past month to contact a dedicated helpline for reporting abuse, bullying and mistreatment allegations in gymnastics.
The chair of UK Anti-Doping, Trevor Pearce, whose organisation has spearheaded the initiative, told the Guardian it was a vital next step. “In light of the review into gymnastics and other reviews that have taken place, I think it’s more important than ever that those of us in sport with an interest in integrity issues get round the table, to do what we can to share information and new ideas, to mend any cracks in the system and to improve the situation for athletes,” he said.
“While the power of sport to inspire people has not diminished, unfortunately it has become too common to hear stories of scandals, accusations and damning testimonies, where the integrity of sport is called into question.”
The announcement comes after Ukad asked Swansea University to identify whether issues of integrity – such as match-fixing, safeguarding, corruption, misconduct or doping – are linked and to also investigate the benefits of sports working closely to minimise such threats.
Researchers, who came up with 24 recommendations for better governance, also found that while some sports bodies were committing to more than £2m a year towards integrity issues, over half the sports surveyed spent less than £10,000.
The sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, whose department will host the first meeting next month, welcomed the news, adding the forum would tackle “some of the most complex challenges facing sport today”.
While the forum falls short of creating a sports ombudsman which some believe is needed to oversee British sport, Pearce said he hoped it would lead to an industry-wide strategy that would protect the purity of sport. “We know that the wrong sort of behaviour can happen in sport and if it happens once in one area, it’s likely that there might be links to another area of concern,” he added.
“No single organisation has the powers, capabilities or jurisdiction to meet the demands presented by these ever-changing integrity threats, so it is imperative that organisations collaborate and share knowledge and best practice if we wish to protect purity of sport.”