THE president of Henley Rowing Club has been banned from the sport for a year after
THE president of Henley Rowing Club has been banned from the sport for a year after failing to investigate claims of “inappropriate behaviour” towards junior girls by a coach.
British Rowing says that John Friend and club chairman Jeff Morgan were made aware of alleged bullying and favouritism in crew selection but did not deal with it appropriately.
An investigation carried out by dispute resolution service Sport Resolution found that Mr Friend tried to “close down” the issue and both he and Mr Morgan “frustrated” efforts to investigate the allegations. An investigation into a third official at the club is still continuing. None of the complaints relates to sexual misconduct.
Mr Friend and Mr Morgan both voluntarily stepped down from duties at the club on April 15 last year when the investigation was announced, as did club captain David Lister. Mr Friend, a Henley Royal Regatta steward and former umpire, has been banned retrospectively from that date until April 14 this year.
Once the ban expires, he will have to undergo safeguarding training and will be mentored for at least six months until British Rowing’s case management group feels he is fit to return to the sport. Mr Morgan will also have to undergo training and mentorship but escaped a ban. Neither man has appealed the decision.
A report by Sport Resolutions said Mr Friend tried “to dispel any possibility that the [safeguarding] concerns may have been genuine and his aim was to ensure that the matter was closed down as swiftly as possible”.
The president “demonstrated a lack of understanding in relation to safeguarding matters, failing to accept that he did anything wrong”.
The investigation also found that he had breached confidentiality by speaking to the Henley Standard while the investigation was under way.
Sport Resolutions said that while Mr Morgan had failed to ensure that the safeguarding allegations were properly investigated, he “acted with the best intentions” and “would, if faced with the same circumstances again, address them proactively”.
In a statement, British Rowing said that the safeguarding of children in rowing was of “paramount importance” and it was “extremely disappointed” with the conduct of Mr Friend and Mr Morgan.
“It is essential that acts which compromise the safety of children are prevented and that allegations are properly investigated and proper processes are followed,” the statement said.
“It is wholly unacceptable that attempts to investigate such allegations were frustrated by two individuals through deliberate acts to undermine the investigation or through incompetence.
“British Rowing has taken the decision to make public these cases because it is important to remind those within the sport that there is a very clear obligation to investigate safeguarding complaints properly and for parents of participants to be confident that British Rowing, rowing clubs and those in leadership roles within clubs take safeguarding very seriously.
“British Rowing continues to work with rowing clubs to ensure they meet the required standards for safeguarding.
“In addition, British Rowing is reassured that Henley Rowing Club has responded to the incidents responsibly by co-operating with the investigation and British Rowing.”
A Henley Rowing Club statement said: “The club fully and unequivocally supports the message delivered by British Rowing concerning the paramount importance of child safeguarding in any situation.
“On being made aware of the complaints made against a club official, the club immediately sought guidance from British Rowing.
“Having initiated an investigation, the club has continued to fully co-operate with British Rowing,
“The club is disappointed at how two individuals’ conduct has breached the standards demanded. We take complaints made by any of our members very seriously.”
Henley Rowing Club, which has more than 350 members, celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2014.
Mr Friend, a former schoolboy rower, joined the club in 1973 after moving to Henley.
He also took over as secretary of Reading Amateur Regatta and became chairman in 1984 before being made chairman of the race committee of the national championships.
Mr Friend has been a commentator at Henley Royal Regatta since 1973 and was elected a steward in 1999. He was made president of the Henley Town and Visitors’ Regatta in 2014.
He has umpired at two world championships, the Athens Olympics, Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Women’s Regatta.