Following many months of work behind the scenes, and the resignation yesterday morning of the Under 18s committee Chairman, followed later in the day by the Under 18s Secretary a long discussion took place at the club committee meeting last night about the future of the U18 section. During this meeting various options were discussed, and it was proposed to suspend the U18 committee. Despite over two years of trying, they have been unable to provide appropriate assurances around safeguarding. Therefore, the Under 18s section is unable to continue. A period of reflection will follow in case appropriate volunteers, processes and assurances can be established for a brand new U18 committee.

Three years ago, there were multiple complaints regarding safeguarding made against one individual in the junior set up. These were severe enough to involve the governing body of our sport. At that time, committee members resigned over the matter and the worrying lack of safeguarding processes and the governance needed to ensure they were strictly adhered to. From that, a new Under 18s Section was set up with a Chairman coming forward from outside the committee to take on the role of finding ways to solve issues that had become apparent and put into action a framework to ensure the club would not have a repeat of the complaints.

Further breaches of safeguarding earlier this year led to the main committee having to step in to help deal with the issues within the under 18s section. In October, the main committee were made aware of further problems in the Under 18s section. This led to a two-week suspension to allow time for the necessary processes and governance to be finally agreed and accepted by all. It was much to the committee’s dismay that within one month, these processes had broken down again. It is the club committee’s role, on behalf of the club itself, to ensure a safe, friendly and inclusive framework for all our junior athletes to enjoy and excel in athletics. If that cannot be shown to be in place or adhered to, then we must make very difficult decisions.

Yesterday it became apparent that the Under 18s committee could not work together and function in a manner that was acceptable to ensure the safe and secure running of the section of the club the deal with the most vulnerable people. That led to the committee making the very tough decision to suspend the Under 18s.

Going forward, athletes aged 16 or over are welcome to continue to remain members and train at senior sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

In this period of hiatus, the club will offer to refund 50% of the membership fees for under 16s.

I hope you can understand that this decision is not one made on the spur of the moment but one that has taken a lot of individuals time to try and smooth out, without success.

James Skipworth
Chairman, Poole Runners