No Olympic role for Shropshire swimming coach after suspension

Coaches at a major swimming club have been suspended after national officials said they had stepped in over “welfare and governance issues”.

Alan Bircher has been dropped from the Tokyo Olympics coaching team and suspended by Swim England
Alan Bircher has been dropped from the Tokyo Olympics coaching team and suspended by Swim England

Swimming’s governing body, Swim England, said it had taken action at Ellesmere College Titans Swimming Club after being contacted by parents concerned over "welfare issues".

Swim England said the situation had led to the launching of an independent review which uncovered issues that “require immediate attention”.

British Swimming has also confirmed that the club’s director of swimming Alan Bircher, a 10-time British champion and world championship silver medallist, will not be part of the Tokyo Olympics coaching team.

The Titans, based at Ellesmere College but not managed by the college, have enjoyed huge success and a glowing reputation in recent years, producing a raft of international swimmers.

Swim England said it had put in place a complete change of the governance structure at the club, as well as coaching support in place of the club's suspended team.

It said the new coaches will be overseen by an "experienced Swim England talent coach".

When contacted, the club said it could not provide any additional comment over that given by Swim England.

Mr Bircher’s work with the club’s athletes had seen him selected as a Team GB coach, and in April this year he spoke of his honour at being picked as one of the coaches travelling to Tokyo with the British swimming team for this summer’s Olympics.

However, British Swimming said he will not be coaching at the competition, with a statement saying: "British Swimming is supportive of the action taken by Swim England and, as a consequence of the review, coach Alan Bircher was not nominated to the Tokyo Olympic coaching team for 2021 and will not be part of the team at the Games."

A Swim England spokesman praised parents who came forward and said there will be “short, medium, and long-term review processes” for the club.

The spokesman said: "Swim England was extremely concerned to receive notification of welfare issues from parents of swimmers in Ellesmere College Titans Swimming Club and on receipt of these notifications instigated a thorough independent review, which was conducted in partnership with the relevant statutory agency and the local authority designated officer.

"The report identified welfare and governance issues and immediately the review was concluded, Swim England implemented all the recommendations in the report to ensure a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone in the club.

"This involved a complete change of the governance structure of the club and Swim England officers working alongside members to put in place a revised structure and procedures.

"An independent welfare officer is supporting the club and as some of the programme coaches are currently suspended, coaching support has been secured for the programme, overseen by an experienced Swim England talent coach."

Swim England said coaching staff would not return until conditions had been met.

The spokesman said: "Swim England will remain working with the club until such time as we are content our robust safeguarding and welfare procedures and policies are embedded within the governance of the club.

"The suspended coaching staff will not return to the programme until such time as all conditions set out in the report have been met to the satisfaction of Swim England.

"The welfare and safety of all of Swim England’s members and British Swimming’s athletes is of paramount importance and we continue to prioritise our duty of care to all within our sport.

"We would like to thank the parents and swimmers who came forward to advise us of their concerns which has enabled us to address these matters. We know this is not an easy thing to do, but by doing so, allows us to take remedial action."

Former Ellesmere Titans coach Amanda Wetherell, who was with the Titans from September 2020 until June 30 this year, is not subject to any suspension or disciplinary action. The same is true of Mark Southward.

Mr Bircher did not respond to requests for comment.

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