Bobsleigh chiefs must step down if sport is to get funding from UK Sport

Exclusive by Dan RoanBBC sports editor
British bobsleigh pilot Brad Hall
Britain's bobsleigh teams did not win a medal in Pyeongchang

UK Sport has told the crisis-hit governing body of British Bobsleigh and Skeleton that its entire board must stand down and re-apply for their jobs as a condition of £7m of investment to prepare for the next Winter Olympics, the BBC understands.

In July, the BBSA had £5m of public funding for bobsleigh for the four years up to Beijing 2022 taken away after a disappointing 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

Skeleton enjoyed an increase to £7.2m after winning three medals in South Korea.

However, after a year in which the governing body lurched from one controversy to another, UK Sport has now taken the unprecedented step of demanding a complete overhaul of its leadership as a condition of receiving the money.

The BBSA has been given until noon on 17 September to accept the ultimatum, or face the prospect of losing all its UK Sport funding.

Documents obtained by the BBC reveal the level of influence and control UK Sport now intends to exert over the governing body.

In an email sent earlier this week, UK Sport's chief executive Liz Nicholl told outgoing BBSA chairman Christopher Rodrigues that among the "conditions" the £7m funding depends on, "all board positions will be open to recruitment" and all current board members seeking to remain must re-apply for their roles. Nicholl tells Rodrigues that the composition of the board must "better reflect the significance of the skeleton world class programme to the BBSA".

Mica Moore: Losing bobsleigh funding was a 'surprise' and 'massive shame'

Nicoll writes that UK Sport will be "directly involved" in the shortlisting process, the composition of the recruitment panel, and be present on the recruitment panel for a new chairman, new board members and a Performance Management Group (PMG).

UK Sport will also appoint a senior executive or 'change manager' to lead the reforms, and "in these exceptional circumstances" have proposed a PMG chair, who will also sit on the BBSA board. A general manager will also be appointed, and the BBSA must submit a full financial plan and budget for UK Sport's approval.

The revelation caps a disastrous year for the BBSA after the BBC revealed last summer that a host of athletes had complained of a "toxic atmosphere" in the sport, with an independent review launched into allegations of bullying, sexism and racism.

The BBSA said at the time that no athletes decided to elevate their concerns to formal complaints but an action plan was agreed to improve process and culture.

Despite being the country's best-funded winter sport, the BBSA then sparked uproar when athletes Mica McNeill and Mica Moore were told there was no money left to fund a women's team at the 2018 Olympics due to a £50,000 overspend, and what UK Sport described as "financial mismanagement".

The BBSA continued to support three men's teams on the basis they represented better medal prospects. Moore and McNeill crowd-funded their Olympic qualification campaign and then out-performed the men's teams in Pyeongchang.

The bobsleigh head coach and performance director, along with the BBSA chief executive all left their roles within weeks.

However, UK Sport are now demanding even more changes.

The elite sport funding body has used the threat of funding cuts to force changes to the boards of governing bodies before. Last year several directors of British Cycling were replaced as a result of new governance reforms. There had been calls for the entire board to step down after a series of controversies.

This is thought to be the first time UK Sport have taken such a step and it is uncertain whether the BBSA will agree to the demands.

UK Sport has been asked for a response.

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