Katherine Grainger named as the new chair of UK Sport

Guardian sport and agencies
Dame Katherine Grainger has been named the new chair of UK Sport. Photograph: John Walton/PA

Dame Katherine Grainger, the former rower and medallist at five consecutive Olympic Games, has been named as the new chair of UK Sport.

Grainger will succeed Rod Carr at the national funding body in July, having retired from rowing last year as Team GB’s most decorated female Olympian.

The 41-year-old was a gold medallist at London 2012 and won silver at four other Games from Sydney 2000 to Rio 2016.

The appointment was confirmed by the department of culture, media and sport on Friday evening, having been made by culture secretary Karen Bradley and approved by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The department had until midnight to finalise its decision, with Saturday signalling the start of purdah - the pre-election period during which such matters are put on hold.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be appointed as the next UK Sport chair,” said Grainger. “I am also very honoured to be joining the team at UK Sport and building on the success and commitment to excellence that I have witnessed and enjoyed as an athlete. I’m also acutely aware of the many challenging issues currently within sport and I hope to play a role in addressing them.”

Sports minister Tracey Crouch added: “Dame Katherine is a peerless leader both on the water and off it. As one of our greatest ever Olympians, she has an outstanding understanding of high performance sport, and through her educational and charity work has a proven commitment to inclusion.

“I know she will be an inspiring chair of UK Sport. I would also like to thank outgoing chair Rod Carr for his superb work at the helm of UK Sport over the past four years.”

Carr will step down on April 22 after four years as chairman, with board member Lis Astall taking over as interim chair until Grainger begins work on July 1.

It is understood Grainger was encouraged to apply for her new position, which carries a modest £40,000 salary, despite lacking administrative experience.

Chief among her most pressing concerns will be managing the protracted fall-out from the scandals surrounding British Cycling, with an independent review into the culture and environment of the body long overdue for publication.

UK Sport, meanwhile, has welcomed a major independent report into athlete welfare in British sport featuring a series of recommendations for improving standards.

The report, entitled ‘Duty of Care in Sport’, is the result of a review conducted by Paralympic great Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson for the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The past year has seen allegations of bullying made against coaches in British Cycling and British Swimming hit the headlines, as well as an abuse scandal in football.

Published on Friday, Baroness Grey-Thompson’s report lists seven ‘priority recommendations’.

It says the Government should create a Sports Ombudsman, measure duty of care via an independent benchmark survey, establish a duty of care charter, and independently fund the British Athletes Commission (BAC).

The other priority recommendations are that all national governing body boards should have a named member responsible for duty of care, that an induction process should be carried out for all people entering elite levels of sport, and that there should be independent exit interviews conducted as people leave formal programmes.

There is then a more detailed list of recommendations under seven different themes, which include ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’, ‘safeguarding’, ‘mental welfare’ and ‘safety, injury and medical issues’.

Under ‘safeguarding’, it is recommended that the Government considers introducing a ‘Duty to Report’ in all sports organisations - mandatory reporting of any abuse or suspected abuse.

In her introduction, Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “Recent media reports and anecdotal evidence from across a range of sports has led to questions about whether welfare and safety really are being given the priority they deserve.

“At a time of success for British sport in terms of medals, championships and profile, this raises challenging questions about whether the current balance between welfare and winning is right and what we are prepared to accept as a nation.

“It feels timely for the sport sector to consider duty of care in its fullest sense. The sector is arguably under more scrutiny than ever before, with allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse in football, and accusations of a culture of bullying in some sports.

“Questions are being asked about the price being paid for success. It is clear that the drive for success and desire to win should not be at the cost of the individuals involved.

“Allegations about the past need to be thoroughly investigated, but the focus must also remain on those in the current system to ensure they are protected and free from harm, bullying, harassment and discrimination.”

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