Hundreds of children are being prevented from taking part in sport because British Gymnastics is attempting to restrict a competitor’s business, it is claimed.
Independent body UK Gymnastics says the sport could “die” as a result.
British Gymnastics has refuted the allegations, which come after talkSPORT revealed similar claims against the Football Association by the United Kingdom’s leading provider of five-a-side football.
UK Gymnastics is a grassroots organisation, which attracts 7,500 children per week to its 82 gymnastics clubs.
It operates independently from British Gymnastics, which is recognised by Sport England as the national governing body; BG oversees gymnastics at every level from grassroots to the Team GB Olympic squad.
UK Gymnastics Executive Committee member Jason Wise told talkSPORT: “We’re trying to get as many people into the sport as possible, which should be the main goal of any sports body, including British Gymnastics. But that doesn’t seem to be their attitude.”
In October 2018 the national gymnastics centre, Lilleshall, cancelled UK Gymnastics’ half-term booking with the reasoning their organisation ‘is not affiliated to British Gymnastics’.
Olympic champion Max Whitlock and Commonwealth champion Claudia Fragapane are among the stars who train at Lilleshall.
UK Gymnastics found an alternative venue, but one parent told talkSPORT: “My daughter was very upset, because she believed she was going to a centre where she would have had an opportunity to use equipment her club doesn’t have. She may have even met one of her heroes.”
British Gymnastics said: “We have no jurisdiction over any other gymnastics providers or parties not affiliated to us. We can’t be sure that any such providers meet our safe sport quality standards. It would be irresponsible of us to agree to third party venue hire.”
In 2017 the East of Scotland Gymnastics Academy was denied use of Musselburgh Sports Centre because the event it wanted to hold was a UK Gymnastics competition. This occurred despite the venue being run by a charity.
As a result more than 200 young gymnasts did not compete and the leisure centre missed out on income from the visit of up to 500 spectators.
ESGA coach David Luby told talkSPORT other venues have rejected him because of his group’s affiliation to UK Gymnastics, meaning it is impossible for him to host a competition in Scotland.
“I’m extremely disgusted,” Mr Luby said. “My gymnasts can’t actually compete in their own country.”
Mr Luby still insists being associated with UK Gymnastics is better for ESGA. “UK Gymnastics is fairer, more enjoyable and a lot more child-friendly,” he added.
British Gymnastics said: “We have a number of regulatory duties to ensure everyone has a safe, fun, positive experience.”
talkSPORT is aware British Gymnastics revoked the affiliation of a Welsh club in 2016 in a letter that cited the club’s relationship to UK Gymnastics. The club now has 152 fewer members.
One club owner described UK Gymnastics as a ‘lifeline’ for less wealthy children.
Clubs pay at least £50 per year less to affiliate with UKG than to British Gymnastics, allowing cheaper coaching and sessions.
In correspondence between the two organisations, British Gymnastics has suggested UK Gymnastics is not allowed to use the Union Jack as part of its logo.
Jason Wise added: “If we get to a stage where the grassroots level is being stifled there is potential that clubs won’t open and then the sport will just die.”
British Gymnastics said: “For the last 8 years, our records show a 10% membership growth year on year, with an increase of 100,000 recreational gymnast members recorded in 2016 compared to 2012.”
Concerns are also being raised about how taxpayer funding from Sport England is distributed in the sport.
British Gymnastics has been awarded £8.3million by Sport England for 2017-21. UK Gymnastics receives no grants and has an annual budget of £100,000.
Mr Wise said: “British Gymnastics is meant to be promoting recreational gymnastics, and that’s what this funding from Sport England is meant to be for.
“But we don’t see that happening.
“So really there needs to be a reconsideration of where recreational funding goes to.”
Sport England told talkSPORT it classes gymnastics as a sport with a high safety risk, and its funding policy is that ‘organisations need to be affiliated to the recognised National Governing Body, to ensure the activities we are funding are safely administered’.
UK Gymnastics’ Executive Committee has a total of 214 years’ coaching experience and the organisation claims its insurance policy is superior to that held by British Gymnastics.