Chief Executive UK Athletics (UKA), Joanna Coates, has said she is committed to setting a policy of zero tolerance to ensure there is a permanent ban from the sport for coaches where there has been sexual misconduct, physical abuse or criminal prosecution.
This follows an open letter sent to Coates last month (supported by over 2,000 athletes and coaches) petitioning UKA to act in relation to abuse by coaches towards athletes. The letter outlined the risk posed by the “Coach Licence Terms and Conditions”, which allows coaches who have broken the conditions of their licence – which could be for reasons of sexual misconduct, physical abuse, harassment or criminal prosecution – to still be eligible for reinstatement after temporary bans.
There is clearly overwhelming pressure for a change, with Coates’ recent zero tolerance position building on her existing commitment to implement the findings of Christopher Quinlan QC’s 2020 independent review of UKA’s safeguarding provisions and her call to review UKA’s articles of association.
Lifetime bans are inherently susceptible to legal challenge. So with Coates’ commitment to zero tolerance at UKA, legal challenges against lifetime bans and other policy changes may soon be on the horizon. Key to UKA’s approach will be a crystal clear definition of the behaviour which can be subject to disciplinary action and the circumstances in which a lifetime ban can be imposed.
UKA is not the only sporting organisation in recent times to face allegations of abuse, with some of those allegations going back many years. It is clearly an area that has to be addressed and we anticipate that any organisation that is not yet doing so may find that it has to in the coming year.
"We absolutely are going to set a zero tolerance policy without a shadow of a doubt," Coates said.