Chief Executive Anna Watkins has called for the newly rebranded British Elite Athletes Association (BEAA) to be the organisation that ‘leads the way’ in British sport embracing genuine, positive and irreversible culture change.
Under its former guise as the British Athletes Commission, the BEAA provided vital support to World Class Programme athletes. It also supported survivors of abuse in gymnastics through the process that culminated in the publication of the Whyte Review.
With that review now published and its recommendations outlined, Watkins believes it is imperative that British sport seizes the moment at hand.
“I have been around elite sport for long enough to see it at its very best and at its worst. Following the events of recent years, it’s fair to say that British sport stands at a crossroads – taking the right action now is crucial.
“We have brilliant coaches, scientists and Performance Directors who reinvent ways to perform at new heights, yet in other places we know we have big risks.
Coaching is largely unregulated, which I don’t think is fair on athletes nor on coaches themselves. This informality creates a lot of risk to everyone involved.
“Athletes need to be able to take for granted that their environment, coaching methods and levels of safety are at the absolute cutting edge. Coaches need to know that their ways of working are recognised as being the best there is.
“I want to be able to look parents in the eye and say: ‘this is definitely a fantastic environment for your son or daughter’. I know these goals are shared across much of the system but evolution is difficult and takes energy. We absolutely have to work together across the sporting system.
“Years into the future, if we make the right choices now, we could look back at this point in time as a defining one for sport in this country. We need to be able to look back with pride and satisfaction at a job well done, and that means tackling head on some really challenging issues that have been simmering for far too long.
“As the British Athletes Commission, this organisation achieved real progress. Now, as the BEAA, we, as athletes, have a real platform to be able to make change happen within sport, and it’s a platform I’m determined to utilise effectively.”
The BEAA’s change in name came about following consultation with its athlete membership, with a consensus that the new title more accurately reflects the organisation that British athletes want and deserve, and one which can continue to grow and influence decision makers within the elite sport system.
The organisation will also be improving its support offerings to athletes, including an ‘alumni’ network, launching this autumn for all retired British international athletes.
“A key aim of the BEAA is to provide genuinely world-class support for our athletes. It’s crucial that this doesn’t stop once an athlete retires, or steps away from their sport for whatever reason.
“We’re excited to be soon rolling out our alumni offering, supported by UK Sport and the EIS, which will give ex-athletes access to their own private community. A feeling of belonging is so important to athletes, and we will be bringing together a collection of opportunities which we know can be difficult to identify once a sportsperson has stepped away from competition – which in many cases is the only career they will have known.
“With this and future developments, we’re incredibly determined to elevate our support for all British elite athletes to genuinely world-leading levels, and be by their side every step of the way through their sporting career and beyond.”