73 Current and Former Ellesmere Swimmers Sign Letter Supporting Alan Bircher

Correction: this report previously said that the investigation was carried out by British Swimming, but it was in fact carried out by Swim England. When Swim England suspended Alan Bircher, British Swimming then had to remove him from the Olympic staff.

A group of more than 70 current and former members of the Ellesmere College Titans, a swim club in the West Midlands Region of England, have signed a letter supporting their coach Alan Bircher after he was removed from the British swimming staff for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Bircher was removed after a 12-month investigation from Swim England uncovered a “toxic culture of bullying, fat-shaming, defying Covid restrictions, and failing to report safeguarding concerns” by Bircher at the club where he’s Director of Swimming.

Bircher, 39, was ultimately suspended by Swim England, along with some other members of the club’s coaching staff, with numerous complaints from member parents prompting the organization to launch an immediate review of the club which was found to back up several of the claims made. This forced British Swimming to remove him from the Olympic staff.

The Titans are among the top clubs in England, with three alumni, Freya AndersonCassie Wild and Hector Pardoe set to represent Great Britain in Tokyo.

The letter was the idea of Hannah Knight and Chloe Golding, both with national or international-level swimming resumes who swam with the Titans from 2013 through 2016. Knight was a top-10 ranked swimmer in the UK, while Golding swam for Team England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and also participated in the 2020 season of the International Swimming League.

Knight says that Bircher was not involved in the drafting of the statement, and that though the club is supporting the statement, it was the idea of her and Golding.

None of us have ever experienced any hurtful or damaging behaviour from Alan and the coaches at Titans,” the letter reads in part, refuting the findings of the Swim England report. “We have only ever had the opposite- Alan is a coach who pushes us to be at our best, who makes sure you have a great time while getting there.

“He encouraged us to be open and helped us with any problems or issues we faced, many of us moved away from home as young teenagers to train with him and the Titans coaches are always the first to check on us.

“The opportunities that he has helped to provide to so many people are unmatchable, providing a fun, exciting and elite training environment. The Titans coaches affected by this decision are both hardworking individuals who only ever want the best for the young people in their care and do not deserve to be in the position they have found themselves in.”

The list of 73 athletes, and growing, who have signed their names to the letter span a range from 2012 to active swimmers. Among the named athletes are 44 active swimmers, which is significant in that the club only has about 70 active swimmers at any given time – so 44 represents more than half of the club.

See the full text of the letter below:

We are shocked and saddened to hear the news resulting in the suspension of Alan Bircher and his colleague from coaching at Ellesmere College Titans. As past and present swimmers of theirs, all training at Ellesmere College, we are confused as to how these allegations have come to light after we all had such amazing experiences swimming at Titans. Alan has given his life to swimming as an athlete, then as a coach. Without a doubt, he is one of the best coaches in Great Britain, helping so many of his athletes to compete on an international stage, most recently three to the Tokyo Olympics.

None of us have ever experienced any hurtful or damaging behaviour from Alan and the coaches at Titans. We have only ever had the opposite- Alan is a coach who pushes us to be at our best, who makes sure you have a great time while getting there. He encouraged us to be open and helped us with any problems or issues we faced, many of us moved away from home as young teenagers to train with him and the Titans coaches are always the first to check on us. The opportunities that he has helped to provide to so many people are unmatchable, providing a fun, exciting and elite training environment. The Titans coaches affected by this decision are both hardworking individuals who only ever want the best for the young people in their care and do not deserve to be in the position they have found themselves in.

Not only has Alan helped us grow as athletes, but also as people. We would not be who we are today without him. We owe so much to Alan and the Titans and are so grateful that we have been able to be coached by him and experience such a great team.

The following swimmer’s and their parents/guardians support this statement:

Athlete (Dates coached by Alan Bircher at Ellesmere College)

 

Chloe Golding (January 2013 – July 2016)

Harriet Rothwell (September 2013 – July 2016)

Hannah Knight (September 2013 – July 2016)

Jacob Jackson (September 2012 – July 2018)

Olivia Gardner (September 2012 – July 2018)

Murrin Dalrymple (September 2012 – July 2016)

Freya Anderson (September 2015 – April 2020)

Charlie Hutchison (September 2013 – July 2020)

Maia Hall (September 2017 – present)

Phoebe Griffiths (September 2015 – July 2020)

Llawen Smith (September 2012 – July 2015)

Chantelle Ridgway (September 2012 – July 2016)

Nathan Wells (September 2015 – July 2017)

Gordon Mason (September 2015 – July 2017)

Ruth Gordon (September 2015 – April 2017)

Laura Harrison (September 2015 – April 2017)

Anouska Gwilliam (September 2012 – September 2013)

Ninah Strydom (September 2016 – July 2018)

Callum Nortje (September 2012 – July 2014)

Billy Petit (September 2017 – July 2019)

Jack Shillinglaw (September 2016 – July 2018)

Isaac Dodds (September 2020 – present)

Oscar Dodds (September 2020 – present)

Millie Wells (September 2016 – present)

George Smith (September 2017 – present)

Jacob Lee (September 2016 – present)

Maia Noonan (September 2020 – present)

Jimmy Kershaw (September 2012 – July 2014)

Prue Noss (January 2016 – present)

Cici Noss (January 2016 – present)

Esmae Noss (September 2018 – present)

Isaac Hall (September 2017 – present)

Mia Leech (September 2019 – present)

Maja Sokolowska (August 2020 – present)

Pola Sokolowska (April 2021 – present)

Hattie Sloane (January 2020 – present)

James Bilbao (September 2017 – July 2019)

Grace Leckie (April 2021 – present)

Bryony Lowe (January 2019 – present)

Hannah Swift (September 2016 – present)

Ollie Covill (September 2017 – present)

Conor Ferguson (September 2016 – July 2017)

Shannon Dalligan (September 2013 – April 2020)

Emily Farr (January 2019 – present)

Anna Farr (September 2020 – present)

Kate Butler (September 2019 – present)

Francesca Whiting (September 2019 – present)

Evie Floate (February 2018 – present)

Jack Burston (April 2017 – present)

Olivia Herron (September 2020- present)

Isaac Pealin (September 2019 – present)

Julieta Ascencao (September 2020 – present)

Amelia Brian (September 2019 – present)

James Raw (September 2017 – present)

Olivia Hidayat (September 2019 – present)

Harry Curtis (September 2014 – July 2018)

Alex Rosser-Barnett (September 2014 – present)

Emily Wynne (September 2019 – present)

Mya Watt (September 2020 – present)

Imogen Edwards (July 2018 – present)

Esmee Slinn (September 2019 – present)

Archie Dandy (September 2020 – present)

Ryan Hardy (June 2019 – present)

Andrew Bertoli (September 2020 – present)

Fleur Lewis (May 2020 – present)

Jake Hutchison (September 2017- present)

Tyler Mclean (September 2012- July 2014)

Paul Nash (2021-present)

Hector Pardoe (September 2008- July 2019)

Jake Hutchison (September 2017- present)

Anais Carson-Mee (September 2011 – July 2013)

Amelia Rodd (September 2018- June 2021)

Hettie D’ammasa (September 2016- present)

Hayden Griffiths (September 2011- July 2016)

 

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Tanks
1 year ago

A few names missed off the list of support for Alan. Many more were added and countless not able to be reached in time.

Ex titan 3
Reply to  Tanks
1 year ago

In time for what? The investigation has already been done.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Anyone know why 2 coaches weren’t included in the report? Very strange

German swimmer
1 year ago

parents can be the worst thing to deal with for coaches…

SwimFastFan
1 year ago

Just because it didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to others. This statement of support seems short sighted.

ANON
Reply to  SwimFastFan
1 year ago

I think they are not just saying that it didn’t happen to them – they are also saying that they didn’t witness it either. Strange that pvrr 90 past and present swimmers didn’t witness any of this. Very strange indeed!

Anonymous
1 year ago

Reading some of the press it appears that Swim England received a few complaints from the parents of less successful swimmers in relation to “fat shaming” and “breaching training Covid rules”. It appears that the “fat shaming” centred around the weighing and height measurement of swimmers. Isn’t that a good thing? – doesn’t it enable coaches to detect eating disorders and tailor training for swimmers during periods of peak growth? As for “breaching of Covid rules” I’m guessing the use of pools at private schools may have been different to those of public pools during lockdown. Clearly the rules during lockdown were complex. Does anyone know what Millfield, Kelly College and Plymouth College did?

Anonymous
Reply to  Anonymous
1 year ago

What about Loughborough’s breach of COVID rules and then the attempt to shut up whistle blower ! Nothing appears to have come of that funny that ..

Anonymous
Reply to  Anonymous
1 year ago

I’ve checked with parents of swimmers at Kelly College and apparently they continued training throughout the second lockdown as part of the school curriculum – exactly the same as Ellesmere. They sent communication to parents advising them not to boast about it as most swimming clubs were unable to train. You are right – I know that Loughborough Uni trained during one of the lockdowns. Frankly the whole thing is looking like a massive knee jerk reaction by Swim England.

Success Leaves Clues
1 year ago

You have the second paragraph here wrong. British Swimming did not conduct any investigation into Alan Bircher. The investigation was done by Swim England who is the governing body for swimming clubs in England. British Swimming is responsible for the ‘elite’ end of swimming in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). This is why British Swimming had to replace Alan as he was suspended by Swim England.

Anonymous
1 year ago

I am proud of these 70+ past & present swimmers for standing up for Alan. I don’t think you can compare the complaints process of a self governing body with that of a legal process.

Corn Pop
1 year ago

Lucky Prince Harry was not a Brit swimmer . Imagine the whines.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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