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Hollie Pearne-Webb: Why I’ve decided to Chair Athlete Advisory Forum View all news

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Athletes are at the heart of elite sport, but with over 1,100 on the World Class Programme at any time, it’s not always been simple to tap into their views. I’m delighted to be part of an initiative to change that, with a 10-strong Athlete Advisory Forum newly launched to provide athlete feedback on high-performance system policies.

First things first, as its Chair it’s a privilege to be able to share the current or recently retired athletes appointed to the forum: Asha Philip (Vice Chair, athletics), Alice Davies (rowing), Dan Greaves (para-athletics), Brad Hall (bobsleigh), James Mazarelo (hockey), Seonaid McIntosh (shooting), Marcus Mepstead (fencing), Grace Reid (diving) and Kirstie Urwin (sailing).

They represent a diverse range of voices from different sports, ages and backgrounds, and while we had many capable applicants I’m incredibly pleased with the group we’ve selected. As well as a great deal of knowledge among these athletes, there is a great depth of passion for improving the athlete experience too.

One of UK Sport’s policy responses to the Whyte Review was to “ensure athletes have greater input into high-performance policy development and operation, through the advocacy of the British Elite Athletes Association (BEAA).” The Athlete Advisory Forum is a huge step towards achieving that.

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The forum will be run by the BEAA, the independent representative body for the country’s elite athletes, and feed into their Board. The BEAA Board, which I sit on, already does a great job of elevating the athlete voice to stakeholders – and having the direct input of the AAF will only strengthen those efforts.

The forum will discuss and advise on policies that affect athletes across the system, such as those around coaching, culture, ED&I, finances, representation, safeguarding, selection, social impact, support and welfare. Stakeholders wishing to engage the AAF on a subject should email the forum administration Grace Stanley, who will raise topics for consideration. We will publish top-level summaries of meetings on the BEAA website.

This, and the growing recognition of the athlete voice, is a significant development for athletes. In the BEAA’s recent athlete survey almost 80% of participants said they thought better connection with athletes in leadership positions was important or very important.

I think most would still say they don’t have a clear voice in decisions at the top of sport despite recent improvements, so I hope this forum will help high-performance sport continue to address that.

In sharing these thoughts I was asked about my motivation to take on a new role despite the time demands of sport and work. For me, after 11 years in international hockey I’ve learned that Olympic medals are to be cherished, but that you want to leave more behind when you step away from sport. What better way to impact current and future athletes than by helping them achieve what they want, and be as fortunate as I’ve been, in a system that more closely listens to them?

For athletes, staff, and decision makers in British sport, our goal is the same: sustainable success that keeps the whole athlete in mind. Collaboration and conversation can only enhance that and increase the quality of that ambition.

A crucial point I’d like to end by enforcing is this: the Athlete Advisory Forum is there to help. It’s a platform to access a balanced and representative viewpoint, to help stakeholders find solutions and ideas for athletes and wider sport. I greatly look forward to hearing from and working with as many people as possible to continually improve our brilliant sporting landscape.

If you work in elite British sport and want to engage the Athlete Advisory Forum on a topic, please get in touch with Grace Stanley on grace.stanley@uksport.gov.uk.

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