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Irish swimming club ‘in turmoil’ over claims head coach breached suspension

by ZwemZa on September 10th, 2017
Members say the coach addressed senior squad swimmers at the club on August 28th, the date the suspension was due to come into effect. Photograph: Getty Images

Members say the coach addressed senior squad swimmers at the club on August 28th, the date the suspension was due to come into effect. Photograph: Getty Images

A Galway swimming club is in turmoil after claims that its head coach has breached a two-month suspension recently imposed by Swim Ireland.

The national representative body’s complaints and disciplinary committee directed that head coach Pearse McGuigan be suspended from “all activities as a coach or otherwise with Galway Swimming Club” over his treatment of a 14-year-old swimmer at a gala last January.

The complaint which led to his suspension related to his public reprimand of the teenager after she had talked to members of her former club at the competition at the University of Limerick swimming pool on January 21st, 2017.

The suspension was due to come into effect 10 days from the date of the Swim Ireland ruling on August 18th, 2017, and thus cover the period August 28th to October 31st.

However, members of the club have claimed that Mr McGuigan addressed senior squad swimmers on the evening of August 28th, and attended a “pathway” assessment for junior members of the club on August 30th.

It is understood that he did not formally participate in the assessment, but was present at the pool with a clipboard, according to several witnesses who spoke to The Irish Times.

Mr McGuigan declined to comment on Friday. He told The Irish Times late last month that he was appealing the suspension decision, and hoped to return to working with the club in any event.

“I have received support from 99 per cent of the club and I feel it is important to honour that,” he said.

Galway Swimming Club did not respond to requests for a comment.

Swim Ireland said that if there was “any breach, it should be reported to our complaints and disciplinary committee”.

Complaints

A Swim Ireland spokeswoman could not confirm if complaints had already been received claiming a suspension breach. The spokeswoman stressed it could not comment on individual cases.

Last month, Swim Ireland fined Galway Swimming Club €400 after a hearing into a complaint that the membership of a 13-year old swimmer was terminated. This followed a complaint made by the swimmer’s parents.

The club reinstated the membership a day after the expulsion, and a fine of €500 was reduced to €400 as the club acknowledged its failure to follow proper procedures.

Another complaint relating to the club which was recently admitted by Swim Ireland did not proceed because the hearing was set for August 16th. The family concerned could not attend as it was the day of the Leaving Certificate results.

Mr McGuigan has coached with the club for 10 years, and has been league coach for the Connacht performance centre, based at NUI Galway, from 2012 to 2016.

Mr McGuigan’s behaviour at the University of Limerick gala was found to be in breach of the Swim Ireland code of conduct which states that a child should not be exposed to “criticism, hostility or sarcasm”, should not be sweared at, ridiculed, shouted at unnecessarily or argued with.

The code also states coaches should not use verbal or physical punishments or exclusion for mistakes.

At the gala, the teenager had been sent to the bench, scratched from remaining races, and was found by her parent in a state of anxiety.

Mr McGuigan did not attend the disciplinary hearing into this case on August 15th at the Swim Ireland headquarters but said in a written statement that he had been wrongly treated and that the disciplinary procedures were “flawed”.

The club is said to be in turmoil, with resignation of several more families of leading swimmers over the committee’s handling of the situation. The club has not held an annual general meeting for well over a year, and it is now scheduled for later this month.

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