After months of waiting, the Independent Review into the Climate and Culture of the World Class Programme at British Cycling has finally been released. It emerged alongside two further reports into the organisation: Peter King’s 2012 review, which foresaw many of the problems to come, and a 'special report into alleged financial impropriety'.
Commissioned 14 months ago, the independent review was prepared by a panel led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps.
There has been a significant change in tone compared to the draft version leaked earlier in the year. The word ‘bullying’ is conspicuous by its absence, for example. Phelps denied that the version released today represented a 'whitewash' but acknowledged that 'emotive language was removed'.
The review has strongly recommended that UK Sport funding be made conditional on British Cycling’s implementation of its various recommendations. Jessica Varnish – whose allegations of discriminatory conduct and bullying precipitated so much of what followed – will doubtless note that these include not just improved selection procedures but also professional staff training “not only in relation to core disciplines but also in terms of equalities and discrimination.”
The section relating to her own complaints and dismissal has however been altered compared to the previous version.
Suggestions that the findings of an internal investigation were effectively covered up have been removed. The review now concludes: “The panel did not view her removal as an act of discrimination, but, in the panel’s view at the very least it did not follow contractual due process.”
Earlier this year, Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, the body that provides British Cycling with its public funding, accused the governing body of covering up the most damaging findings from an internal British Cycling report carried out by Peter King in 2012.
This too has now been released and King did indeed flag up concerns relating to many of the issues that subsequently arose.
In that report, King made explicit reference to “a culture of fear and bullying” and an “autocratic leadership style.”
Meanwhile, some of the observations he saw fit to include within a list of things that the organisation did ‘less well’ included:
- Level of support for women is embarrassing
- Fear factor and unhappy environment
- Bullying and public criticism
King also made reference to the “most bizarre management structure I have ever seen in my life.”
Reacting to the independent review (CIR), Chairman of British Cycling Jonathan Browning said: “We accept, in full, the recommendations in the CIR and apologise for where we have failed or fallen short of the standards which we should have achieved.
“It is clear from the CIR that our structures and procedures, especially at the leadership level within the World Class Programme (WCP), were lacking. Since the findings were shared with us, we have rapidly made major changes to the WCP and to our leadership, operations and governance so that we can ensure that British Cycling learns these lessons and becomes a world class governing body.”
UK Sport has also admitted to failings. CEO Liz Nicholl commented: “I accept that UK Sport should have been more alert to warning signs of cultural challenges developing in British Cycling. If we had, we would have focused on working with the sport to find the solution to tackle these issues. Our action plan commits to strengthening our case management to ensure greater oversight of World Class Programmes, with a particular focus on culture and duty of care.”
UK Sport has also published a 'special report into alleged financial impropriety'. The investigation found no evidence of fraud or corruption but says that British Cycling needs better, more modern controls.