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British Gymnastics 'monitoring' role of former coach at new club

Gymnastics

British Gymnastics said it is "monitoring" a gymnastics club after a former coach who is no longer permitted to carry out some roles was hired to work with children.

The body recently admitted full liability in a civil case where a former elite acrobatic gymnast alleged she had suffered abuse from the coach.

And it comes after an independent investigation released last week found that physical and emotional abuse within the sport in Britain were "systemic".

Eloise Jotischky said Andrew Griffiths subjected her to inappropriate weight management techniques and verbal harassment when he was her coach at Heathrow Gymnastics Club.

A settlement was reached and Jotischky received a full apology from the governing body's chief executive.

Griffiths subsequently went to the World Acrobatic Championships as a Great Britain coach, but then cancelled his membership with the governing body which meant he was no longer permitted to coach.

It has now emerged he has taken on a role of choreographer at King Edmund club in Bristol.

Griffiths previously served a British Gymnastics suspension for inappropriate practices before he coached Jotischky but was allowed back to the sport early after appealing.

The club told BBC Sport it contacted British Gymnastics for advice following the settlement. A spokesman said: "We have been in contact with British Gymnastics to try to clarify their understanding of the advice they gave to us regarding Andrew Griffiths and we're still waiting."

The club says it was told Griffiths had only cancelled his membership to coincide with the retirement of the gymnasts he was coaching and to spend more time with his own children, that it would be happy to reinstate his membership should he apply for it and that it had "no concerns about Andrew continuing to work with our club".

In a Facebook post to parents it continued that no membership was required to choreograph, and while it recognised some parents may have concerns in light of the case, it had "taken all the relevant steps to alleviate the concerns".

"We are fully satisfied for Andrew to continue at King Edmund," it added.

"We are confident our club's robust safeguarding measures will continue to keep all of our children safe and happy during training."

In a statement to BBC Sport the club said: "Our Facebook response sums up the club's position in relation to this issue. We have also had an open meeting with parents where we were able to reassure parents about the integrity of the club."

Last week's Whyte Review, co-commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England, said gymnast wellbeing and welfare "has not been at the centre of British Gymnastics' culture".

Report author Anne Whyte QC also said British Gymnastics had "failed to ensure that clubs and coaches, including national coaches, were acting responsibly".

She made 17 recommendations to "enable the sport to move forward and make positive changes".

Responding to the review, British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell, who has been in the post since October, said the body "will not shy away from doing what is needed".

"We will build a new culture and... change gymnastics for the better," she continued.

When asked about Griffiths' involvement at the club, British Gymnastics said: "As soon as we were made aware of any potential breach of our rules, we contacted the club involved and made it clear the activities that only British Gymnastics members can be involved in in a British Gymnastics environment.

"We also made it clear that we would be monitoring this and take action against the club if necessary. Regarding a person re-applying for membership, this would only be approved based on appraisal of any complaints directly received by our safeguarding team and we always reserve the right to refuse membership applications."

However, campaign group Gymnasts for Change, which was set up to provide a voice for athletes seeking to tackle abuse in the sport, said the situation was "unacceptable".

"Inadequate safeguarding laws in the UK mean that the owners of King Edmund Gymnastics Club can lawfully employ a formerly suspended coach without British Gymnastics membership to work with athletes at their club as a choreographer," it added.

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