Swim England Under Fire As Ex-Boss Bostock Fails To Apologise After Third Misconduct Finding

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Sue Arrowsmith - Photo Courtesy of the Masters swimmer

Swim England Governance In Spotlight – Three Masters Complaints Upheld

Chris Bostock, former Chair of the Swim England Sport Governing Board, has been found guilty in a third misconduct case after having been found guilty in two previous misconduct cases.

An independent panel concluded that he was guilty of “rude and aggressive” behaviour in violation of the association’s Code of Ethics in a case brought by Professor Sue Arrowsmith, a masters swimmer and expert in law, over events that took place at a meeting she was to have delivered a presentation at.

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Chris Bostock – Photo Courtesy: Swim England

Bostock has not issued an apology to Prof. Arrowsmith, the third of the three women whose complaints against him were upheld, nor has he replied to an invitation from this reporter to comment on why that might be.

No longer on the Swim England board, Bostock retains strong links as a consultant to an association celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Swim England, which has faced questions and steep criticism from Masters swimmers over the federation’s willingness to improve its governance and culture in line with modern standards, did not answer the specific questions put to it.

Those questions hang in the air and include: why had Bostock not apologised; has Swim England sought to have him make one in order to reinforce good culture, one that accepts that mistakes have been made and lessons learned; did Swim England intend to continue to work with Bostock given that similar alleged behaviour among others, including coaches, has led to full-blown inquiries and even contributed to dismissals?

Swim England pointed us to the determination: to find it without instruction is quite a trawl: any who want to find it and/or read it must scroll down to the very bottom of the page this link goes to and click on the discipline header, then find the relevant judgment and open the pdf – and the accompanying board statement.

All three complaints about Bostock’s behaviour arose out of incidents at the 2017 Swim England Masters Conference, where many swimmers had hoped to discuss the longstanding governance problems in GB swimming.

Many felt that poor governance had underpinned the crisis-striken 2016 London European Masters Championships: the event was a commercial and sporting fiasco, with huge financial losses, according to official figures and reports.

Close to 10,000 swimmers were crammed into facilities designed for 5,000, while organisers faced accusations of sex discrimination after the women’s races were allocated mainly to the “warm up” pool at the London 2012 venue, while the men, for the most part, got to race in the Olympic pool.

A legal settlement, negotiated by Prof. Arrowsmith, included a public apology over the event from British Swimming Chair, Maurice Watkins, and former CEO David Sparkes (now a member of the FINA Bureau). Even so, a British Swimming promise to look at the discrimination data had not been followed through at the time of the conference.

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Sue Arrowsmith – Photo Courtesy of the Masters swimmer

The governance problems were to have been discussed in a session led by Professor Arrowsmith, a Law Professor who is also an expert to the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport. However, with less than 48 hours’ notice, the session was cancelled by Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO. The reason: Professor Arrowsmith’s paper was “too critical”, according to Verity Dobbie, who represents the federation in dealing with Masters.

According to the disciplinary findings, Nickerson then gave Bostock the job of shutting down any governance discussion, telling him that Professor Arrowsmith was seen as a “trouble maker”.

When angry delegates – many of whom had travelled hundreds of miles – asked to hear Professor Arrowsmith, Bostock intervened in a manner delegates described as “abusive”, “aggressive”, “intimidating” and “threatening”.

In an earlier decision, a Disciplinary Committee found Mr Bostock guilty of intimidating and distressing two other female swimmers, and ordered him to apologise. Swimming World understands that he has done so but that the apology merely parrots the Disciplinary Committee’s words, leading to complaints seen by Swimming World that the apology was just “going through the motions”.

In the latest decision, an independent appeal panel chaired by Gemma White QC has now also found Bostock guilty of misconduct towards Prof. Arrowsmith, concluding that he was “rude”, “aggressive”, “sneering” and “dismissive”.

Conscious of the complaints over the earlier apologies, the panel decided not to insist on an apology, stating that an apology given under orders would not be genuine but just risk being “insulting” – but said that it hoped that Bostock would reflect on his behaviour and choose to apologise.

Many weeks have gone by and there has been no apology from Bostock. Should that change, we will bring you news of his apology.

The first committee was also highly critical of Swim England, which backed Mr Bostock throughout, providing evidence for him while refusing to cooperate with the complainants. The committee found that the CEO, Nickerson, was “wrong” to cancel the paper, and the appeal panel ordered its final decision, containing observations on how Swim England’s board is expected to behave, to be sent to the current board.

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Sue Arrowsmith – Photo Courtesy of the Masters swimmer

The board statement in response merely states that the board has “noted” the contents and that Bostock no longer holds a board position since a 2018 restructuring – without, however, referring to the criticisms of its CEO, or mentioning Bostock’s continuing consultancy role.

Meanwhile, Prof. Arrowsmith has told Swimming World that she is not at all surprised that Bostock has not apologised but is disappointed at what she believes is evidence that Swim England is not taking on board the need for serious cultural change. She added:

“The board’s statement includes no expression of regret or even any indication that it accepts the criticisms. It is incredibly disappointing that three years after London our swimming federations continue to display the same contempt for stakeholders as before and still react to all criticism by trying to squash it rather than engaging with it”.

14 comments

  1. avatar
    Ali

    It is a very sad reflection on Swim England although it seems to be the culture rife through sports governing bodies.
    The first hearing was a farce and an obvious attempt to sweep genuine complains under the carpet.

  2. avatar
    Anonymous

    So sad that an appropriate apology has not been received. What a shame that Swim England appear not to have learnt from this episode.

  3. avatar
    Denise Greenway

    This is an absolute disgrace! Chris Bostock was accused of bullying the women who attended the masters conference. He should apologise to Sue Arrowsmith and then withdraw from swimming completely. Swim England is acting in a despicable manner by continuing to be associated with him. Jane Nickerson, you should hang your head in shame for supporting this man.

  4. avatar
    Rodney Marks

    Sadly, in my opinion, a not unexpected result. Swim England like many organisations don’t like anyone upsetting their own little Apple cart. Bullies are rewarded and the bullied brushed aside. Masters swimmers appear to be looked upon as a cash cow to subsidise others and are expected to do or say little about how their sport is run for them. Perhaps the time is coming for a split so that we can run our own sport in a more inclusive way.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Sadly Water Polo is similar – a number of cases have been reported to SwimEngland and no notice taken – It appears SwimEngland wrote and signed up to WavePower purely as an academy exercise!

  5. avatar
    Keith Spence

    This has gone on far too long and just shows what an intransigent organisation. Swim England is. I watched the whole European Masters saga unfold and it’s was the fault totally of the paid people at the top. I was also at the meeting where Professor Arrowsmith was due to to deliver a report on over a years worth of study into the debacle that caused me to leave Swimming. Mr Bostock’s demeaning on that day was intimidating and threatening not only to Sue but also to anyone who wanted to discuss the issue. He needs to apologise now. And Swim England need to demand that he does: for the integrity of the Sport.

  6. avatar
    Jayne McDowell

    Masters swimmers in the UK are their own worst enemy. Year after year, they put up with rubbish delivered to them. Yet they are too weak to do anything about it. Mr Chris Bostock knows what they are like, he was told by Jane Nickerson, (as he later admitted), to go to the masters conference to stop Sue Arrowsmith from delivering her talk. There are too many people who are organising masters swimming in the UK, who are looking after their own interests. Why do masters swimmers allow them to get away with it? If Mr Bostock and his like, bully and intimidate you, he will continue to do so if you do nothing about it. It’s quite pathetic that you are happy to just accept an apology. This case should have been on the front page of every national newspaper. You have missed your opportunity, and you can be sure it will happen again. Swim England is using you just to collect money, and you stand for it!

    • avatar
      Sue

      Agree with most of what you say. But who says we are happy with an apology – or that this won’t be in the national newspapers (which isn’t, of course, totally within our control)? The reason Masters put up with the rubbish is because most people aren’t interested but more and more are becoming interested and we may actually be making some progress behind the scenes. But let’s reserve judgement for now and see what happens.

      • avatar
        Christine Goodair

        Sue, for some reason my post has appeared as anonymous -but it was me Christine

  7. avatar
    Neville Barton

    It is not just Masters’ Swimming where the “Suits” have sway. Swimming has been like this for many years. The Wigan Wasp fiasco was mirrored by a similar situation with City of Liverpool. Squads were created in the 60’s and 70’s to enable kids to swim with the better swimmers in their areas. These were poo-pooed as being elitist by the local clubs, without any though given to the swimmers selected to swim for these squads. This stemmed from the fact that the Clubs didn’t want to lose their best swimmers, and gave no thought of consideration to the swimmers.
    Unfortunately most sports have an Old Guard at the top and just want to reap the rewards of others success….take FIFA, FINA and Len for example.

  8. avatar
    Money for Nothing

    No surprise but disgusted – unfortunately after bullying within sport ‘scandals’ even within swimming you would think the Governing Body would be whiter that white – SwimEngland Water Polo has had a number of cases of bullying reported to it – carpet lifted brush out – WavePower was written and signed up to by SwimEngland but conveniently ignored when it may affect them!! Never mind about the members that leave plenty more will join!!!

    Perhaps it is time for a deeper investigation I am sure there are stories to tell that SwimEngland would not want the wider world to hear!

    Jane Nickerson hang your head!

  9. avatar
    Bob Bolton

    Ironically those of us that seek some openness and transparency with a contemporary approach to good governance are largely a volunteer workforce. We provide untold hours of FREE time to help make Masters swimming the growing success that it is. I very much doubt Swim England could operate as it currently does without us. That’s why it’s all the more sad that the paid workforce seem to be able to get away with treating the volunteers contemptuously as appears to have been the case in this sorry, long and drawn out unnecessarily debacle.

  10. avatar
    Russell Simpson

    I am a Masters Swimmer. I was at the fiasco that was the European Masters Swimming Championships in London Inn 2016. I have never been so embarrassed to be English. On my first day of swimming, I, like many others were refused entry to the pool. I was outside when the warmup started and ended. I was outside when my event started.
    When we finally entered the pool, it was a rush to get to the blokes. We were not prepared!
    By profession I’m a Qualified Accountant. I was appalled to find out that there was no headline sponsor for the European Swimming Championships. This is the third most prestigious swimming championship that can be held in Europe after the Olympics and the World Championships. No getting a sponsor was negligence of the highest kind! Needless to say, a big loss was made. This loss absorbed all of the income from the fiasco that was the European Masters Swimming Championships, it also need more more from Swim England and UK Sport. Heads should’ve rolled for this. Did they? No they didn’t. The following year in Budapest, the World Swimming Championships were sponsored by Lidl. They were a great success. I know, I was there!
    I was also at the meeting where Mr Bostock was so rude and pompous to Professor Sue Arrowsmith and the rest of the Masters present.
    What I couldn’t understand why he just had to apologise to three women. He needed to apologise to everybody present. His took pomposity to a whole new level. Unfortunately, much of British Sport has pompous oafs like Mr Bostock at the top. Just look at the FA!
    I was extremely disappointed to discover that Swim England were backing Mr Bostock all the way. I was also disappointed in the stance of Jayne Nickerson to this matter, as I found her to be a decent person to deal with in the past!
    I knew that after much investigation, Mr Bostock would be found guilty of disrespectful and bullying behaviour!
    I’m not surprised that Mr Bostock hasn’t apologised as he is too arrogant to do so!
    What beggars belief, is that after all of the disciplinary rulings against him, Mr Bostock is STILL employed as a consultant by Swim England. He shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near British Swimming!
    Out of the sorry state of affairs, the only person to come out of it with any dignity, is Professor Sue Arrowsmith who handled herself in a Professional manner, in the face of adversity and hostility by the powers in British Swimming!
    A previous comment was made about apathy by the majority of Masters Swimmers. This is true, as the majority of Masters Swimmers are not bothered with the politics of how the sport is run, as long as they can get to train.
    Luckily, there are some Masters Swimmers who do stand up for good governance in the sport of swimming, not just in Masters, and I thank them for it.
    Swimming needs to clean it’s act up. What better way to start the clean up than to cut all ties with Mr Bostock?! I will not hold my breath on this one, as Swim England look after their own.

  11. avatar
    Joe

    In 1995 then England rugby captain Will Carling described the senior people at the RFU as “57 old farts”. I don’t think those in charge of British Swimming are any better all these years later.