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Background Info

A Scottish Governing Body (SGB) (National Governing Body (NGB in England, Northern Ireland and Wales)) is an organisation that governs and administers a sport on a national basis, whether that is for the whole of the United Kingdom or for one of the Home Countries individually. SGBs are typically independent and are funded by public money via sportscotland.

A SGB would be expected to deliver the following functions within its area of jurisdiction:

  • Control and regulate the environment of its sport;
  • Administer the practice and participation of its sport;
  • Develop its sport;
  • Influence both members and organisations of which it is a member.

To be able to deliver the functions a recognised SGB is likely to undertake various activities including managing the rules and regulations of its sport, including anti-doping, child protection and equality.

I believe SGBs are not fully accountable to their members. Clubs and individuals have no mechanism to challenge actions taken by the SGB.

From personal experience, I am aware of a negative outcome that resulted from how a complaint/issue was handled by a SGB.

An issue was passed to my club SGB to follow internal disciplinary procedures. The SGB recommended a suspension for the person involved in the complaint.

The SGB did not notify the club of this suspension and there was no support or contact from the SGB to check on the welfare of the person that had been suspended, nor the club members at any point in time. When the club Chair wrote to the SGB to advise them they had not been notified the SGB CEO apologised for the oversight.

The suspension was taken to appeal but the suspension was upheld.

My understanding is that no one involved in an initial investigation should be involved at the appeal stage. However, I am aware that in this particular example, this is exactly what happened. As such this was not an independent appeals panel.

A complaint was made to the SGB about its handling of the case. The response was that the complaint process was followed, and the complaint would not be taken any further.

Following a further letter from the Chair to the SGB asking where a complaint could be raised against the actions and conduct of the SGB, it was explained that there was no way to complain about decisions made by the SGB.

I am also aware that in this particular example, rules were not followed in relation to a referral to Disclosure Scotland. The rules of a Disclosure Scotland referral states if the criteria are met, the referral has to be submitted within 3 months, it is an offence not to do so. In this situation referral was not made until 8 months later. Eventually Disclosure Scotland advised the referral was incompetent and it should not have been considered for listing.

A complaint was lodged with the SGB’s Chairman of the Board about how this issue had been handled. Incredibly, the response was that the Board were not allowed to interfere with the SGB’s governance and the complaint was passed on to the same people who had handled the issue in the first instance. i.e they were asked to carry out an investigation on themselves.

I do not believe this is an isolated case. I believe that clubs and individuals in other SGBs could face similar problems of not being able to challenge actions. There must be an avenue to challenge decisions by a SGB.

The Duty of Care in Sport: Independent Report to Government by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, DL noted the most important element in sport is the people involved, whether they are taking part, volunteering, coaching, or paid employees. It also advised it is time for the sport sector to consider a Duty of Care in its fullest sense. The reports first priority recommendation was for a Sports Ombudsman: “The government should create a Sports Ombudsman (or Sports Duty of Care Quality Commissioner). This organisation should have powers to hold national governing bodies (NGBs) to account for the Duty of Care they provide to all athletes, coaching staff and support staff, providing independent assurance and accountability to address many of the issues cover by this review”.

I believe an independent sports ombudsman is now desperately needed in Scotland.

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