Allen retirement a great day – Wilson

Olympic bronze medallist Nile Wilson says news of British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen’s plan to retire is a “great day for the sport”.

Allen has said she will retire in December but the move comes at a time when her organisation is investigating claims athletes have been mistreated.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sport on Tuesday, Allen said she had made the decision to leave.

“I think it’s a very, very good for the sport of gymnastics,” said Wilson, 24.external-link

“The cultural changes needed, it starts at the top and this is a huge, huge step.”

Hannah Whelan, who competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for Great Britain, said athletes were scared to talk about issues at British Gymnastics because of a “culture of fear”.

In reacting to Allen’s retirement announcement Whelan said: “She actually doesn’t understand the full extent of this and the actual hurt that has been caused for the athletes.

“She has failed to address the issues and problems in the sport and is kind of just walking away. It seems almost too easy for her.”

Since July, BBC Sport has revealed a series of stories of former and current gymnasts alleging mistreatment at all levels of the sport – including Olympic medal-winning gymnasts Amy Tinkler and Wilson, plus Olympians Becky and Ellie Downie.

In August, Wilson told BBC Sport he felt there was a “culture of abuse” in British gymnastics, saying athletes are “treated like pieces of meat”.

An independent review, led by Anne Whyte QC and co-commissioned by Sport England and UK Sport, is ongoing, with its call for evidence closing last Friday.

“I think it’s coincidental that her retirement has come just before the Whyte Review – the independent investigation into the organisation – is about to come to fruition,” added Wilson.

“Jane said in her interview she had worked very hard for the organisation. She used the word ‘organisation’. Now that is there and doesn’t happen without us athletes on the front line. We have worked hard as well and I know we haven’t been valued as we should.

“The barriers that were stopping us from speaking out when we had problems start in the leadership.

“So it’s a great day for the sport. There is still lots of work to do. I love the sport and for the next generation coming through we can make it the best it can be.”

Wilson, who won bronze in the horizontal bar at Rio 2016, used Instagram to thank BBC Sport editor Dan Roan for his pursuit of the story.

Hours earlier Allen had sat down with BBC Sport and admitted it was “quite upsetting” for her to leave with the sport in turmoil.

British Gymnastics explained Allen was due to retire after the 2020 Olympics but when they were postponed for a year, her stay was extended to help deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the abuse claims.

Asked if she should have waited for the outcome of the Whyte Review to be published before retiring, Allen – who was appointed in 2010 – said: “I’ve thought about that. But as this has been my plan to retire in December, I think that it’s appropriate that I keep that plan.”

Under Allen’s leadership, Great Britain’s gymnasts won 11 Olympic medals but she admitted the organisation had “fallen short” in protecting its athletes, adding “there are things that as CEO, I take full responsibility for”.

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