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New crisis for British Gymnastics as it faces a grass roots rebellion

Two senior coaches say they have the backing of 25,000 gymnasts in the rebellion against BG. Credit: PA

Top management at beleaguered British Gymnastics is facing a grass roots rebellion in the wake of recent controversies surrounding the sport.

A letter was sent to the sport’s leadership today by two senior coaches, John Pirrie and Colin Wright, who claim they are backed by 25,000 gymnasts from across the country.

The letter says “We are astonished that the senior management team are still in place, and presiding over the continuing chaos.” It goes on to say that gymnasts are “all very reasonable people who have no desire to be revolutionaries, but are tearing their hair out, at the Associations total denial that anything is wrong.”

Their frustrations are twofold.

The first revolves around a new registration system for gymnasts that the letter describes as “a complete and unworkable shambles.” The upshot being that many athletes cannot take part in competitions they have qualified for and many judges are being told they are not allowed to officiate. Pirrie and Wright say club managers are spending hundreds of wasted hours trying to sort out the “chaos”.

They also suggest the new system is not linked to new data protection requirements but is a cynical move by the British Gymnastics Association to exert even greater control over its members.

The letter also refers to recent claims, denied by the BGA, that "appalling leadership" within the governing body had led to a culture of fear.

“It is rather obvious, that the senior management team at BG have very significant flaws, that are being exposed on a daily basis.”

Pirrie and Wright say they already have enough signatures from gymnasts to force an Extraordinary General Meeting but are holding off for the time being because they don’t want to permanently damage the governing body. “….we do not wish to bring to the knees, the Association most of us have worked a lifetime to support.”

The two coaches say it appears the Board are powerless to act and as a result members are turning their back on the organisation and joining a rival body, UK Gymnastics. UKG claim they have already signed up 5000 new members since the allegations surrounding British Gymnastics became public knowledge.

Pirrie and Wright are urging the BG board to step in as a matter of urgency.

A spokesperson for British Gymnastics said: "Driven by the incoming new data protection law British Gymnastics has introduced a new registration system. However individual and club membership registrations are at the same level as this time last year.

"While British Gymnastics will consider the contents of the email received tonight, its broad ranging claims are not ones we recognise as having any substance."