There is not one disabled person among the “team leaders” who are heading the high-level preparations of 21 Paralympic sports in the lead-up to Rio 2016, the British Paralympic Association (BPA) has admitted.
The admission came as BPA began the induction programme for 10 new team leaders, who will join 11 who continue in their role from London 2012.
Team leaders are nominated by the national governing bodies of each Paralympic sport, and will provide feedback to BPA through the planning process that leads to the Rio Paralympic Games, including information on competition venues and the athletes’ village from the perspective of their own sport.
BPA officially accepted the nominations for team leaders from the various sports governing bodies last month.
Announcing the beginning of the team leader induction programme, Penny Briscoe, BPA’s director of sport, said this week: “These individuals are absolutely vital to our success as ParalympicsGB at a games because they are such an intrinsic part of the team and part of our planning process.”
Only two months ago, Britain’s best-known Paralympian, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, called for more disabled people to be involved in running national disability sports organisations.
The peer, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals, spoke out after a Disability News Service survey revealed that most of the UK’s leading disability sports organisations were controlled by non-disabled trustees and directors. BPA only has one disabled person on its board of nine directors.
Baroness Grey-Thompson said then that control of disability sport by disabled people had been “declining for years”, and she suggested there were too few disabled people in paid employment with “elite” disability sports organisations, and too few disabled coaches.
A BPA spokeswoman stressed that the 21 team leaders were all nominated by the individual sports governing bodies, and that “all come from a high performance, elite sporting background”.
She said: “I think what is important is they are all appointed on the basis of their working in disability sport and their experience and credentials.”
But she said BPA was examining the career paths of Paralympic athletes after they retire, and last year held a joint career fair with the British Olympic Association.
She said: “We are putting plans in place so we can listen to what our athletes are saying and work to get a better idea of what they want to move on to post-retirement.”
And she pointed out that BPA appointed Iain Gowans, a retired Paralympian, as its new classification manager last month, to join two other retired Paralympians on its staff.