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Swimming coaches join union to fight false allegations

False allegations against swimming coaches and teachers have led them to seek the protection of a trade union. They decided last week in Glasgow to go into partnership with the GMB.

The action by the 30,000-strong British Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association was prompted by the case of Eric Henderson, who hails from Paisley and was wrongly dismissed by Bristol City Council for gross misconduct involving verbal and emotional abuse of a young woman swimmer. An industrial tribunal case was later settled out of court. Mr Henderson, aged 49, received pound;27,000.

Brian McGuinness, former president of the BSCTA and now swimming officer of the GMB, told the association's annual conference in Glasgow that coaches sometimes faced "spurious allegations for reasons of petty dislike and vendetta".

Mr McGuinness said: "Because of the nature of the allegations stigma is very often attached and hence we observe the coach being considered guilty until proved innocent. By going into partnership with the GMB we feel we are in a better position to protect ourselves."

The union would not defend the indefensible. "But we also recognise that coaches cannot operate effectively if they are constantly looking over their shoulders."

Mr McGuinness said: "Swimming coaches are in a very vulnerable position if they are falsely accused. The BSCTA fully supports the child protection guidelines, but wishes to see them being used in a manner consistent with the rules of natural justice."

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