British Cycling: Collins' comments are ill-informed

Damian Collins MP poses for photographs during the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on March 10, 2016 in London

Damian Collins MP poses for photographs during the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on March 10, 2016 in London (Image credit: Getty Images)

British Cycling on Thursday responded to Damian Collins' calls for federation chairman Jonathan Browning to step down and for UK Sport to drop support for Brian Cookson's bid for re-election as UCI president, saying Collins' comments were ill-informed and did not consider changes already underway within the organisation.

Collins, the chairman of the UK Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport select committee, made his comments following the publication of the final report of an independent review into British Cycling culture.

"In light of the findings of the independent review, I do not believe that Brian Cookson should be re-elected as head of the UCI – he certainly shouldn't receive any support from UK Sport for his campaign," Collins said. "None of the members of the board from the period covered in the investigation should remain, which would mean that Jonathan Browning should stand aside from his position as chairman."

Cookson, the president of British Cycling from 1996 until he defeated Pat McQuaid in 2013 to become the head of the UCI, presided over a period at the federation that, according to the review, perpetuated a "culture of fear" in the high-performance programme.

Warning signs were present in a 2012 review commissioned by former British Cycling CEO Peter King, but no action was taken to address the issues until sprinter Jess Varnish accused coach Shane Sutton of sexism and discrimination following the 2016 UCI Track World Championships.

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Since then, British Cycling has begun a massive reorganisation, making 'sweeping changes' to its athlete development and governance structures.

"In accordance with the requirements of the new Code for Sports Governance, and as we announced last week, a number of board members will be stepping down following the EGM in July when the National Council votes to approve Board changes," British Cycling said in a statement sent to media Thursday evening. "Seventy percent of the Board will therefore change as a result.

"A mass walkout of the Board at this time would be detrimental to the sport which is why we are seeking to responsibly manage this transition," the statement continued. "The independent directors – Alex Russell, Jonathan Browning and Marian Lauder – will continue to be Board members. Jonathan Browning will be eligible to apply for the appointed position of Chair of British Cycling in the forthcoming open selection process in October this year. His role in introducing and maintaining the pace of change at British Cycling since becoming Chair in February 2017 is unmatched in sport.

"Bob Howden, the former Chair who stood down in February 2017 following four years in the role from November 2013, is eligible for re-election as British Cycling's President this November, but would no longer be a member of the Board. Should Bob stand, then this is a decision for our membership. Change is therefore very much coming to the British Cycling Board, giving the organisation the leadership it needs to ensure we become a world class governing body.

"Brian Cookson served as British Cycling President from 1997 until 2013, having joined an emergency committee in 1996 to save British Cycling from insolvency. He has made an enormous contribution to the sport in this country and around the world and we wish him every best wish as he seeks re-election for the role of UCI President.

"British Cycling is quickly and responsibly changing with the endorsement of UK Sport and Sport England, the Government's own funding bodies. Our Board – and that of many NGBs the length of the country – are filled with unpaid volunteers who give their time to steward our sport. Their voluntary contribution is invaluable, as is the 3.5m volunteer hours that British Cycling's supporters have donated over the past year.

"Change is very much in train at British Cycling. Damian Collins would be very welcome to come to the National Cycling Centre, whenever he would like, to understand and witness the transformation that is underway."

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