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UK Sport’s Latest Culture Findings Show Progress In High-performance System

UK Sport High Performance System scaled

An overwhelming majority of athletes and staff in the high-performance system now believe measures are in place that improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Data released today from UK Sport shows that four in five athletes (79%) feel this way, a significant improvement on the 65% first reported in 2018.

Among new initiatives reflecting the continuing nature of UK Sport’s cultural commitment are:

  • Training 300 Mental Health Champions, in association with the English Institute of Sport
  • Creating 200 Culture Champions across the high-performance system

Another indication of progress from UK Sport’s Culture Health Check survey is that 10% of athletes and staff experienced and/or witnessed unacceptable behaviour. While this is still 10% too many, it does represent a significant reduction on the 24% reported in 2018 – although there was a slight difference in collection methodology (see Notes to Editors).

Other encouraging outcomes are that a high number of sports (76%) are showing clearly identifiable strengths in their culture, and that there is a strong sense of pride at being part of the World-Class Programme among athletes (90%) and staff (93%).

However, UK Sport is under no illusions that more work needs to be done. Only 53% of respondents believe there are consequences when people behave inappropriately – a rise from 44% in 2018 but lower than the 61% recorded in 2017.

UK Sport is acutely aware of recent examples where athletes in particular sports have been subjected to unacceptable behaviour. It remains utterly committed to supporting all funded sports and partners across Olympic and Paralympic sport to embed a positive culture.

UK Sport will always embrace the British public’s desire to see memorable Olympic and Paralympic moments. But that success should be the product of a culture that is both ethical and sustainable. 

Since the first Culture Health Check in 2017, several measures have been introduced including A Code for Sports Governance and the creation of UK Sport’s own integrity unit.

Sally Munday, CEO of UK Sport, said: “We remain absolutely committed to a high-performance system which places the wellbeing of our athletes at its core. I also believe the vast majority of people in high-performance sport are doing the right thing, but we are very clear that there is no room in sport for anyone who doesn’t want to behave to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

“It’s encouraging to see that there is progress in important areas, especially around athletes’ mental health, but I am under no illusions that there is still plenty of work to do in this space.

“Culture takes time to evolve but the overwhelming majority of national governing bodies share UK Sport’s view. A positive organisational culture is absolutely essential to the continued success of our athletes and those who support them, both in competition and as role models in society.”

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:

“It’s vital that everyone taking part in sport feels safe and secure and that they have people they can turn to for support when they need it. Today’s results are encouraging but it’s clear there is still work to be done.

“We will continue to work closely with UK Sport and national governing bodies to drive progress and set new expectations as we approach next year’s Olympics and Paralympics, with the welfare of our athletes and staff at the heart of everything we do.”

You can find the full culture report here.