British Paralympic Association admits it has just one disabled director


theweeksubShocked activists have criticised the British Paralympic Association (BPA) after its “astonishing” and “appalling” admission that only one of its nine directors is disabled.

The organisation – which prepares and manages the British team at every Paralympic Games, and is responsible for promoting the Paralympic movement in Britain – made the admission after announcing the appointment of three new non-executive directors to its board.

None of the three new directors – civil servant Emma Boggis, who manages the Cabinet Office’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy unit; Norman Brodie, who headed Cadbury’s London 2012 marketing operation; and Greg Nugent, who was director of brand, marketing and culture at the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG – are disabled people.

Jaspal Dhani, a disability consultant and former chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said the lack of disabled directors on the BPA board was “appalling” and “astonishing”.

He said: “They may talk of legacy [from London 2012]but how is that legacy reflected in their own internal structure?

“When you look at how far we have come in ensuring that disabled people’s voices are heard in all areas of life it shows how backward-looking BPA’s philosophy is.

“They are an organisation for disabled people and not of disabled people, which is highly disappointing when it is disabled people who have made BPA what it is.

“What they are saying here is that they do not consider disabled people to have the right kind of skills, professionalism and background that can help them to develop as an organisation.”

Dhani, who plays and coaches with the London Raiders wheelchair basketball club in east London, added: “It is very sad and disappointing that BPA have not given due regard to looking at the talents and skills of disabled people and particularly disabled athletes as suitable candidates for joining their board.

“When you look at the success of the Paralympics and Olympics, it was disabled athletes who made the games what they were.”

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said BPA was guilty of a “missed opportunity to lead by example”.

She said: “It is very disappointing when there has been so much dialogue and discussion around the legacy [from London 2012].

“It is very undermining of the level of expertise that the elite athletes have built up. For disabled sportspeople the career progression [within disability sports administration]is very, very limited. The opportunities are minimal.”

Newman, a keen sailor, said UKDPC had tried to promote change in disability sport by talking to governing bodies, but added: “It is very difficult when you have a governing body that doesn’t allow the benefit of lived experience to influence decisions.”

BPA said the new appointments followed a “thorough recruitment process”, and that the trio would provide “leadership”, “strategic direction” and “governance oversight”, focusing on “vision, core values and objectives”.

Asked whether it was acceptable to have just one disabled director, a BPA spokeswoman said: “The BPA is a sports organisation, and the appointment of our board members is made based on their knowledge, experience and passion for Paralympic sport.”

When asked if this suggested that BPA believed there were no retired Paralympians with the requisite “knowledge, experience and passion for Paralympic sport”, she declined to comment further.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment.

The Cabinet Office’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy unit also declined to comment, saying: “It is not for the government to tell anyone about the composition of its board.”

Tim Reddish, BPA’s chair and its only disabled director, said earlier that he was confident the appointments would help the organisation “make further progress on our ambition to make the UK the leading nation in Paralympic sport and, through this, to inspire a better world for disabled people”.

25 July 2013