By Craig Lord
The head coach of the Great Britain swim team and the director of swimming for England have been suspended pending an inquiry into the findings of an internal audit that is said to have uncovered “financial issues that raised concerns”.
Clive Rushton, senior coach to Britain, and Mike Peyrebrune, a former Scottish international who is now at the helm of English swimming, learned of their suspension on Tuesday. They have been denied access to their offices at the headquarters of the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) and Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain in Loughborough and their mobile phones have been confiscated. David Sparkes, chief executive of the ASA, said: “An independent inquiry is under way. Both Clive and Mike will be given every opportunity to put their cases. This might be explainable. They will remain suspended on full pay for the period of the inquiry.”
Rushton said: “I’ve been given no details of what this is about. I asked for them but I was refused.” Rushton returned to Britain last year after a period as national coach to Greece. Before that, he had spent many years coaching in Canada.
Peyrebrune, a former Scotland champion and British short-course record-holder in the 50m backstroke, said that he was “happy” for an inquiry to be held, adding: “I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s come out of the blue.”
He has been told that a hearing will be held “some time over the next few days”. Both men declined to make further comment.
Sparkes would not divulge the specific nature of the inquiry. He confirmed that the internal audit had been undertaken by Roger Derwent, who joined the ASA as finance director in April, at the request of the Sport England, as part of standard checks and balances on all financial matters of all sports in these days of National Lottery funding.
“Arising from that audit were financial issues that raised concerns,” Sparkes said. “Under those circumstances, we felt it appropriate to suspend the two men. We are moving as quickly as we possibly can.” He added that he hoped the matter would be resolved “within a matter of weeks”.
The appointment of Derwent as the ASA’s first full-time finance director arose from the recommendation in the official report into the activities of Hamilton Bland, the former BBC TV commentator and ASA facilities officer who was found to have accepted bribes, that the finance office of the ASA be moved from York to Loughborough and that the post no longer should be part-time.
Sparkes said that the ASA had “learnt the lessons of the Bland report” in terms of the need for all its affairs as a body that receives public funding to be transparent. As such, an “independent person with no connections with swimming” had been appointed to conduct the inquiry.
He declined to say who that person was at this stage. “We do not want to prejudge or prejudice anyone,” Sparkes said. “We are following procedures in the interests of all those concerned.”