Cultural changes needed at Badminton England – report

Marcus Ellis (left) and Chris Langridge were not selected for the men’s doubles at Tokyo 2020

Badminton England needs to introduce “some fundamental cultural, behavioral and procedural changes” in order to be able to run its Olympic and Paralympic programmes, according to a report.

Badminton England (BE), GB Badminton and UK Sport commissioned the report.

It came after doubles partner Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis spoke about their treatment during the selection process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The report contains 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 help with sports science, medicine and broader support.

In response to these recommendations – which are detailed below – BE says it has “fully examined” the issues raised and developed a 50-point plan that includes coach development, a women leadership program, a strategy for equality , diversity and inclusion, and mental health and protection.

The report is not published in its entirety to protect the anonymity of the contributors. However, Pete Fitzboydon, BE’s interim CEO, admitted it was “difficult to read”.

“It provided us with the insight we needed to create a world-class badminton program with the return of UK sports funding,” he added.

“A lot has been said in public and it has been very personal. There are a lot of injuries, both among the coaches and among the players.

“[Mediation] is going well and we are confident that everyone can be welcomed back to a happy training environment.”

Speaking to the BBC in July 2021Langridge and Ellis said they felt “treated like dirt” and “stabbed in the back” when Ben Lane and Sean Vendy were picked ahead of them for the men’s doubles.

The pair won a first appeal, but an independent panel ruled that the governing body had followed the selection policy rules and the line-up was endorsed by the British Olympic Association.

Commenting on the report and the results, the players said: “The last six months have been the toughest of our careers, both physically and emotionally.

“We are pleased that the report has shown how culture needs to change and that the issue of Olympic selection was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“This is the first step in a long process towards a better environment for players and staff to thrive. We look forward to seeing the plan implemented and refocusing on representing England on the world stage.”

Lauren Smith, who plays mixed doubles with Ellis at the Tokyo Olympics, told BBC Sport the report was important because player-coach relations had reached a point that hurt respect for athletes who felt under coaches . “It left the players speechless and it’s not going to get the best out of the athletes,” she said.

Ellis says he’s ashamed that he didn’t speak up sooner as he only spoke up to the point of being dismayed about issues, but is “positive” about the changes being made.

Team GB did not win a medal in badminton in Tokyo, but Paralympics GB took silver and bronze.

UK Sport has invested significant funds for the Paris 2024 Games, totaling more than £4million for its Olympic and Paralympic programmes.

Report Badminton England results, recommendations and plan

The report outlined eight key findings, including:

  • There is clear evidence that player issues and concerns regarding the program have been widely recognized and have persisted for a long time. The aftermath surrounding the selection of the Olympic team was a triggering event that highlighted the day-to-day challenges that existed. There were indications of improper behavior by all parties and while there was no desire to formally advance them, there is clearly a need to complete the mediation process in order to repair relations.
  • There are concerns about the mental health and well-being of players and coaches, particularly how these issues are monitored and managed. Numerous examples of mental health needs were presented to the panel, with support staff being overwhelmed and several ‘near misses’ occurring.
  • The coaching staff is mostly made up of men, veteran players and a similar elite background. This has contributed to a sense of unequal treatment of women in the programme. The working and personal relationships within the coaching staff have normalized certain behaviors that have been reported as objectionable to players, particularly women and young athletes.
  • Previous funding constraints meant that there was no multidisciplinary team practice (MDT) to support athletes. The gap in supply compared to other sports is now even greater due to funding constraints.
  • A clear process to support the induction, development and transition of athletes is lacking and there is little evidence of a systematic, collaborative and transparent performance planning process

recommendations

The report recommended six changes that Badminton England should respond to:

  • Ensure protection protocols are developed, communicated clearly and implemented appropriately.
  • Improving current relationships between program participants.
  • Conduct a review of the World Class program leadership and governance structure.
  • Integrate world-class coherent multidisciplinary team support (MDT) including industry standards for sports science, medicine and broader support.
  • Integrate world-class performance processes, with a particular focus on clear communication and transparency from all sides.
  • Provide dedicated support from GB Badminton for running the Paralympic program and general support for non-centralized coaches and players.

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