White teenage girl performing a gymnastics tumble

British Gymnastics’ Reform 25: One year on


12 months on from the publication of Reform 25, we welcome the ongoing commitment to change British Gymnastics are showing. Both their progress report and the launch of the new #BeThe Change campaign are big steps forward that will help make gymnastics a safer, fairer and more welcoming sport for girls and women.  

Why it Matters

We know that sport has a powerful role to play in developing resilience, courage, self-belief and belonging for girls and women. There is little doubt that sport could help to counter the epidemic of anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders that plague teenage girls’ lives as well as mitigating the risk of developing certain diseases more prevalent amongst women in later life like osteoporosis and arthritis. But to achieve this, sport must be an environment that meets the needs of women and girls. 

A young white woman jumping over a gymnastics horse with help from a white male coach

Gymnastics, as a foundation sport, is perfectly placed to offer a positive and truly engaging early experience of sport for tens of thousands of young girls, enabling them to develop a lifelong love of sport and physical activity. British Gymnastics is clearly committed to putting the welfare of the gymnasts front and centre of their strategies.  

The exclusion of women from sport and their abuse in sport is not a problem unique to gymnastics or any one sport. We welcome the leadership that British Gymnastics is showing and we recognise this as a vital step to tackling the gender inequality that has existed across all sport for many years.  

Putting girls’ voices at the heart of change

Deeply understanding the experiences that women and girls have in sport is at the heart of Women in Sport’s mission as a charity. When the Reform 25 plans were first launched, we were delighted to see British Gymnastics sharing this view as they pledged their commitment to listening to the voices of those in the sport. We are even more delighted today to see that this commitment is being followed through; with the raw and honest voices of gymnasts, parents and coaches absolutely central to the progress that is being made – whether those voices are complimentary or not. Continuing to listen to women and girls will be key to making gymnastics the best sport possible for girls in the future. 

The launch last week of #BeTheChange is also a big step forward. The campaign encourages everyone in the gymnastics community to come together to help make it a safer and fairer place. The new policies and practical guides that will follow the campaign launch will be crucial to the ongoing success of the sport; particularly those on reporting suspected abuse and sensitive issues such as weighing gymnasts.  

What more needs to happen?

Although actions such as those taken by National Governing Bodies (NGBs) like British Gymnastics are extremely welcome, and will undoubtedly have an impact in their sport, we continue to believe we need an independent regulator to tackle abuse across the whole of sport. 

White girl aged 6-8 on a balancing beam

Introducing an independent body with relevant expertise and free from conflicting interests would make sport safer for everyone, especially women and girls who are disproportionately the victims of abuse when it occurs. Taking this approach would make sport safer for everyone. 

Cultural change is difficult. It takes a long time. It is unreasonable to expect British Gymnastics to have already fully addressed all the issues in the sport that Reform 25 was designed to tackle. It is clear, though, that change is coming. And that change is very welcome to the millions of girls and women who are involved in – and love – gymnastics.