War of words erupts between rival British crews on eve of new bobsleigh season

Great Britain
Great Britain (PA Archive)
14:53pm, Tue 10 Nov 2020
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Britain’s beleaguered bobsleigh programme risks descending into civil war on the eve of the new season after two World Cup-bound crews called on fellow squad members to stop “sulking” over recent political developments within their governing body, the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.

A letter signed by members of the respective teams led by Brad Hall and Mica McNeill rubbished claims made by a rival group of athletes last month that the removal of bobsleigh development officer Colin Rattigan from the BBSA’s board would have a significant, adverse effect on their chances of success.

Despite its call for an end to what it called the “ludicrous” in-fighting within the domestic sport, the letter earned short shrift from the opposing camp, with one figure branding Hall’s and McNeill’s crews “spoilt brats” when asked for a response to the letter by the PA news agency.

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Hall and McNeill are preparing for the start of the new World Cup season in Latvia on November 20, while other crews will return on the second-tier Europe Cup circuit prior to the reintroduction of four-man teams into the World Cup schedule early next year.

Their new campaign starts amid a backdrop of recent acrimony which was reignited when Rattigan was dismissed by the BBSA in October, four months after he raised complaints which yielded a new and ongoing investigation into governance issues by UK Sport.

An initial letter, remotely signed by 13 athletes and two coaches under the collective title of “British Bobsleigh Athletes”, raised concerns over Rattigan’s removal, and said it threatened his “exceptional” plan which they said they felt sure would bring “collective success, funding and medals.”

Mica McNeill (PA Media)

The BBSA’s bobsleigh programme lost its UK Sport funding following a poor performance at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, itself following a UK Sport probe which raised concerns over governance issues at the organisation.

Hall and McNeill said they were not consulted over the initial letter, and added the fact that their programme is now centrally unfunded made a mockery of claims that Rattigan’s aborted vision could have led to such a spectacular turnaround in fortunes.

Their response, seen by the PA news agency, states: “Based upon our experiences we cannot agree with the statement made by “British Bobsleigh Athletes”.

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“Put simply, we have a board without the means to progress the sport in any way, shape or form, and until that changes, it is down to us as individuals to secure funding from third parties, which will always create an imbalance.

“To suggest a great platform was created and then shelved is not correct without the ability to actually implement it.

“We understand that this is frustrating for a lot of athletes including ourselves. However, we all have to deal with the current situation, and we can sit and sulk or we can look to achieve these improvements ourselves.

“From an outside perspective, because in essence that is what we now are, there seems to be a power struggle within the BBSA. This seems ludicrous at a time when we should all be pulling together.”

The BBSA declined to comment on the latest developments, but are understood to be broadly unconcerned by direct relationships between crews, which have essentially reverted to being independent entities since the withdrawal of funding.

Hall finished fifth in the two-man world rankings at the end of last season, whilst McNeill, who bucked the trend of disappointment in Pyeongchang with a credible eighth place finish, is widely regarded as the British team’s best hope of getting back on track.

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