Rob Greenwood Rejects All Allegations of ‘Bullying’ & Spreading A ‘Climate of Fear’
Rob Greenwood, the coach accused of “bullying” Paralympic swimmers in a report that led to British Swimming issuing an apology to athletes and parents, has broken his silence to issue a complete denial of all allegations.
On the back of supporting statements from the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and the British Swimming Coaches Association (BSCA), Greenwood expresses his “severe disappointment with the findings of the report and the methodology” in a statement to counter “current press”.
“I do not propose at this stage to address each finding in turn, but wholly reject the allegations of bullying, intimidation and all other criticisms made of me.”
Further, the man who landed UK Sport’s Coach of the Year award after the Britain Paralympic swimming team returned from Rio with 16 golds atop 47 medals in all last year, rejects the notion that he promoted a “climate of fear” among Britain’s Paralympic swimmers and says he was never been “knowingly offensive or insulting” and denies addressing women swimmers with abusive language.
In a statement also published in The Times, Greenwood says:
“I would further wish to add that no swimmer or member of staff ever raised any concerns with me about an alleged ‘climate of fear’. I do not consider I was ever knowingly offensive or insulting, specifically I did not address any female swimmer with the highly abusive term claimed [cxxt is what has been reported].”
He acknowledges tough coaching, stating: “I accept that I push swimmers, whether able-bodied or disabled, to their limits which I believe is what is agreed by a whole team including the athletes. The techniques and training have achieved great results consequently.”
His stance has the “full support & backing” of the BSCA, the peer organisation that echoes Greenwood’s “concern and surprise at the disclosure of confidential material including a report and my name”.
The independent report into the allegations was supposed to have been confidential yet Greenwood’s name made headlines and that confidentiality clause has been used to prevent Greenwood from seeing the report in full.
The allegations led to Greenwood losing job offers and could cost him the Sports Uk coach of the year award .
He is among coaches and officials, along with Britain para performance director Chris Furber, alleged to have:
- “acted in an intimidating manner towards athletes”
- “used derogatory terms to describe athletes owing to their disability”
- “inappropriately disclosed medical information of a Para-swimmer”
- “asked an athlete to perform a task they were unable to do due to their disability”
- banned athletes from leaving hotels and confined them to a resort “as a punishment… leaving them unsupervised and unattended whilst abroad or on a training camp”.
While some of the allegations come down to the word of staff against the word of seven swimmers, five of whom made their complaints long after the alleged incidents and beyond loss of funding under UK Sport criteria, there are factual aspects of the report that raise more questions than they deliver answers. When SwimVortex took a deeper look, we found gaping holes in the evidence and facts that call into question the conclusion of an independent report run by two former policemen and accepted by British Swimming’s board seemingly without question when question was demanded.
In a statement, the BSCA expressed its concerns over the methodology and approach of the investigators compiling the inquiry report.
More on what those questions are later in the day but sources point to two “major concerns” in the allegations, namely that a coach “inappropriately disclosed medical information of a Para-swimmer”; and that coaches “banned athletes from leaving hotels and confined” them to a resort “as a punishment… leaving them unsupervised and unattended whilst abroad or on a training camp”.
The medical information disclosed pertained to a potentially life-threatening condition and was shared only with the home coach of the athlete because it was essential for that person to be kept up to date. Indeed, had one coach not informed the other, he might “well have been said to have been negligent”, said a source.
On the issue of athletes being confined to barracks, the resort in question was the Thanyapura Health and Sports Report 5-star complex in Thailand. The facility its used by the national elite teams of Britain, the Netherlands and several other leading swim nations in recent years.
The allegations of ‘punishment’ and ‘leaving them unsupervised and unattended’ is wholly rejected by those accused.
Those leading the team in Thailand, for example, tell a different tale to that conveyed in the concluding remarks of the independent report. It seems that no-one “banned athletes from leaving hotels and confined them to a resort “as a punishment… leaving them unsupervised and unattended whilst abroad or on a training camp”.
The other version of events is this: coaches put the athletes to a test set by performance psychologists at the English Institute of Sport (EIS). As an incentive, those who passed the test would be treated to a day out on the sight-seeing/shopping trail; those who did not pass the test would have to stay in the 5-star luxury resort. A source told this author:
“No-one was punished nor locked in a hotel … and at no time was any athlete left unsupervised; their support staff was available at all times.”
In defence of there “pressure technique”, the English Institute of Sport, which was not asked to provide expert witness evidence to the inquiry, issued a statement last week to note:
“The pressure technique deployed is an example of a range of services that a performance psychologist would routinely deliver as part of their work to support coaches and athletes in achieving improvements in performance.
“In this instance, the programme was designed with input from athletes at a series of workshops and intended, at their request, to help produce training conditions that felt more like a competition situation. While the psychologist was employed directly by British Swimming, as guardians of the Professional Code of Conduct along with the other home country sport institutes, the EIS will always seek to ensure best practice.
“The EIS’s Head of Psychology has reviewed the notes of the practitioner and is satisfied that the process followed was within the parameters set by the British Psychological Society. Notwithstanding that, the programme followed will be independently audited by an expert in the field.
“All practitioners operating within the high performance system are required to meet the standards set out in the Professional Code of Conduct which requires them to place the athlete’s health and welfare at the heart of everything that they do. Confidentiality is an element of this. There is nothing to indicate that any practice in this case did not meet the high standards set.”
Greenwood states: “The pressure technique I deployed is an example of a range of services that a performance psychologist would routinely deliver as part of their work to support coaches.”
Even so, British Swimming last week apologised to athletes and their families for “unacceptable behaviours” on the basis of conclusions that appear to demand rigorous review.
Until today, Greenwood has declined to comment while taking legal advice on his position as a coach no longer employed by British Swimming and therefore unable to put his side to any disciplinary hearing, a facility that has been open to those who face the same and/or similar allegations, including the para national performance director Chris Furber.
Greenwood notes in his statement:
“I was nearly always with other members of staff whenever I was coaching and I anticipate that there will be support for me coming from some of them and athletes in due course.”
He concludes: “I shall continue to take the advice of my legal team of Anthony Metzer QC, Goldsmith Chambers and the support services of Genevieve Gordon, Tactic Counsel and have nothing further to add at this stage.”
The BSCA, while noting that it did “not wish to have unsuitable or inappropriate adults, working with swimmers in the UK or elsewhere”, said that the organisation “continues to give Rob Greenwood its full support & backing, whilst there is no ‘proven’ evidence to the contrary.”
This site understands that the controversy and report has left coaches “walking on egg shells” and unwilling to follow standard models of coaching in para-swimming for fear of being called out as a bully and having their careers ended at the word of complainants, said one source, “if the process of investigation that is accepted by all of us is going to fall shy of the rigour required to get to the truth, including calling ion experts that can confirm that some of what is being alleged can not only be explained but also found far and wide in British sport as approved methodology in world-class performance sport.”
That thought extends to what is widely perceived by coaches as the “unfair” position Greenwood finds himself in. Furber is still employed by British Swimming and therefore has access to a disciplinary process that allows him to defend his position. Greenwood, who has not faced any legal action, left the federation’s employment before British Swimming called an inquiry, has no right of appeal but may well be affected by the fall out from events unfolding.