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The Whyte Review Into British Gymnastics: Key Safeguarding Lessons For Sports Governing Bodies

Gymnast exercise on bar
Friday, 21 October 2022 By Debbie Nicholson

On 16 June 2022, Anne Whyte KC published her final review1 into British Gymnastics. This review followed an interim report that was published in February 2021 that highlighted significant governance and safeguarding failures within British Gymnastics.

The commissioning of such a report was not unique to British Gymnastics or UK National Governing Bodies (NGBs). Globally we have seen a significant spotlight cast on safeguarding across a number of sports, albeit from different perspectives. The Cromwell Review looking at Hockey Canada triggered the resignation of the entire Hockey Canada Board after it was revealed that the organisation reached an undisclosed settlement with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the country’s 2018 world junior team. October 2022 also saw the publication of an independent investigation commissioned by the US Soccer Federation into player abuse in US women’s soccer. This investigation was conducted by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who concluded that her investigation revealed a league in which all types of abuse and misconduct had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims where the most basic of safeguards was absent. The situation is deeply troubling and one must question how many more reports need to be commissioned before it is clearly understood at the highest level that the duty to safeguard is paramount, part of an effective governance regime and can not be left solely to the respective sport to police.

This article discusses the issues which led to the Whyte Review, the review’s report and recommendations and analyses the key takeaways to be implemented to ensure change.

It discusses:

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Written by

Debbie Nicholson

Debbie Nicholson

Head of Regulatory, Markel Law
Deborah Nicholson is an experienced lawyer and Head of Regulation at Markel Law. Her practice is focussed on sport, health and social care and education. She has represented players in disciplinary proceedings and has provided advice to sports clubs on a range of governance matters. Currently she is supporting sports organisations in relation to medical service delivery, athlete welfare and safeguarding. In 2019, Deborah finished a lengthy part time secondment with a NGB dealing with contentious matters and policy development. She is recognised in the Legal 500 as a sports law regulatory expert.

In relation to her safeguarding practice, she is regularly involved advising and representing organisations and individuals where concerns have been raised regarding their conduct. In a regulatory setting, she has prosecuted healthcare professionals where allegations have related to sexually motivated conduct concerning children and vulnerable adults. She has also defended healthcare organisations and individuals in the criminal courts for allegations of abuse/neglect. Deborah is a member of the Sports Resolutions’ National Safeguarding Panel and England Hockey’s Disrepute Panel.
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