Badminton England needs to introduce “some fundamental cultural, behavioral and procedural changes” in order to realize its Olympic and Paralympic programs, the report showed.
Badminton England (BE), GB Badminton and UK Sport commissioned the report.
It came after a partnership in pairs Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis talked about their treatment during the selection process at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The report made six recommendations for change.
These included the need to improve protection protocols, foster better relationships between individuals within the program, develop clearer communication between all parties, and integrate a world-class multidisciplinary team to assist in sports science, medicine, and wider support.
In response to these recommendations – listed in full below – BE says it has ‘fully explored’ the issues raised and developed a 50-point plan, which includes coach development, a women’s leadership program, an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, and mental health and protection.
The report will not be published in its entirety to protect the anonymity of contributors. However, Pete Fitzboydon, interim CEO of BE, admitted it was a “difficult read”.
“It provided us with the insight we needed to create a world-class badminton program with the return of funding for British sport,” he added.
“A lot was said in public and it was quite personal. It was terribly hurt, both for the coach and the players.
“[Mediation] we are doing well and we are confident that everyone can return to a happy training environment. “
In an interview with the BBC in July 2021Langridge and Ellis said they felt they were “treated like dirt” and “hurt their backs” when Ben Lane and Sean Vendy were chosen in front of them for male couples.
The couple received an initial appeal, but an independent council ruled that the governing body followed the rules of selection policy, and the composition was ratified by the British Olympic Federation.
On the report and findings, the players said: “The last six months have been the hardest in our careers, both physically and emotionally.
“We are glad that the report pointed out that culture needs to change and that the issue of the Olympic election is just a drop in the bucket.
“This is the first step in a long process towards a better environment in which players and staff can thrive. We look forward to seeing the plan come true and returning to focusing on representing England on the world stage.”
Lauren Smith, who plays mixed doubles with Ellis at the Tokyo Olympics, told BBC Sport that the report is important because the relationship between players and coaches has reached a point that has affected respect for athletes who feel under coaching. “It made the players feel voiceless and it won’t get the best out of the athletes,” she said.
Ellis says he is “ashamed” that he did not speak earlier because he commented on the problems only until he was affected, but he is “positive” about the changes that have been made.
The GB team did not win a medal in Tokyo in badminton, but the GB Paralympic Games won silver and bronze.
UK Sport has invested significant funds, totaling more than £ 4 million for its Olympic and Paralympic programs, for the Paris 2024 Games.
Report on the findings, recommendations and plan for badminton in England
The report presented eight key findings, including:
- There is clear evidence that players’ problems and concerns about the program have been widespread and long-standing. The consequences around the selection of the Olympic team were a driving event that highlighted the existing daily challenges. There was evidence of misconduct by all parties and although there was no desire for them to make formal progress, there is a clear need to complete the mediation process to improve relations.
- There are concerns about the mental health and well-being of players and coaches, especially how these issues are monitored and addressed. The panel presents numerous examples of mental health needs, with strained support staff and a few “almost failures”.
- The coaching team is mostly male, with many years of experience and a similar elite player. This contributed to the feeling of unequal treatment of women in the program. Work and personal relationships within the coaching team normalized certain behaviors that were reported to be uncomfortable for players, especially women and juniors.
- Previous funding constraints have led to a lack of multidisciplinary team (MDT) practice to support athletes. The insurance gap compared to other sports is now even larger due to funding constraints.
- There is no clear process to support the introduction, development and transition of athletes and little evidence of a systematic, collaborative and transparent performance planning process
The report recommended six changes to be addressed in badminton in England:
- Ensure that security protocols are developed, clearly communicated, and properly implemented.
- Improve current relationships among individuals in the program.
- Undertake a review of the leadership and management structure of the World Class program.
- Integrate the coherent support of a world-class multidisciplinary team (MDT), including industry standards for sports science, medicine and wider support.
- Integrate world-class performance processes, with special emphasis on clear communication and transparency on all sides.
- Provide targeted support from GB Badminton to Paralympic program leadership and general support for decentralized coaches and players.