The BAC and NSPCC have announced that the helpline set up in response to allegations of abuse within British gymnastics will close at the end of February, having taken over 220 calls to date.
The helpline was launched on July 20th, and has provided a confidential space for anyone to raise concerns about abuse and mistreatment within gymnastics.
From March 1, the NSPCC’s main phone line – available on 0808 800 5000 – and its trained staff will still be on-hand to offer support to anyone affected, with callers contacting the helpline with concerns about gymnastics able to access the BAC’s package of support measures.
In total, 221 calls have so far been taken by the helpline up to the end of January. Over half of these contacts resulted in a referral to an external agency, such as the police or social services.
Evidence from contacts has also been submitted to the Whyte Review, and a large number of callers were referred to the BAC for support including online therapy sessions.
One mother told the helpline:
“My daughter attended a gymnastics club from the age of five until she was seven. During the two years that she was there she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. The coach screamed and shouted and pushed her to the floor even when she was crying. The coach told my daughter that if she complained to her parents, she would be made to train even harder. Other coaches saw these incidents and never intervened. My daughter has since developed mental health issues and anxiety.”
Louise Exton, NSPCC Helpline Service Head, said:
“Since allegations of abuse and mistreatment from high profile athletes shook the foundations of gymnastics in the UK, we’ve heard from more and more people with similar experiences.
“It is crucial that everyone has their voices heard to be able to better safeguard future generations and our joint helpline with the BAC has been vital in enabling this to happen.
“Despite the closure of the dedicated helpline, it is never too late to speak out about your experiences to seek support, and we urge anyone with a concern to get in touch.”
Sarah Newton, Chief Operating Officer at the BAC, added:
“The BAC is extremely proud of its work in partnership with the NSPCC, not only in launching the helpline but in the work continuing to be undertaken by the seconded caseworkers whose expertise has added additional resource to our Athlete Support Unit. Our priority was always about giving those individuals who chose to disclose their story, a safe space to be listened to and supported.”
The Whyte Review into the allegations of mistreatment within the sport is ongoing, while British Gymnastics has launched its own independent complaints process, to address individual complaints that were made to the BAC and NSPCC helpline from July through to October.
The BAC and NSPCC have continued to work together to ensure that individuals and their families have received comprehensive and effective support following their calls to the helpline.
Two cohorts of gymnasts – 34 individuals – and their families have so far completed online therapy sessions run in conjunction with Dr Misia Gervis (operating as PrimeMind), which were launched to support affected athletes. A further four cohorts are currently undertaking the process.
The BAC has collated anonymised feedback following these sessions, and has been encouraged by the positive impact that participants have reported:
“Being part of a group of other people that understand and ‘get it’ has been very empowering. It’s been a time of large reflection and I feel the techniques and processes the therapists helped us with are something that I will continue to get my head around, use and reflect on.”
If you have been affected, or have concerns about mistreatment in gymnastics, please contact the helpline on 0800 056 0566. To report your concerns from March 1 onwards, please contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
The BAC continues to provide impartial, confidential and expert support to its members across a wide range of issues. World-Class Programme athletes can email firstname.lastname@example.org to access the Athlete Support Team.