British Rowing’s CEO and Performance Director go to Ground

By Rod Sparks, Publisher, Row360

3 minute read
Words Rod Sparks
Published 10.08.21

Rowing has historically been one of Team GB’s most successful sports. So you would have thought that British Rowing’s senior management – and in particular CEO Andy Parkinson – would have something to say in the wake of the national team’s disappointing Olympic performance; the lowest medal haul since Atlanta 1996, and the first time GB has failed to win a rowing gold medal since 1980. Evidently not.

Having agreed last week to be interviewed by me and my colleagues Rachel Quarrell and Tom Ransley – an interview set up with Kenny Baillie, British Rowing’s Director of Partnerships and Communications and Genevieve Collett, Personal Assistant to Andy Parkinson – enter stage right Shelley Wyatt, GB Rowing Team Media Manager. Yesterday Wyatt tried to move the goalposts. She said Parkinson was happy to do the interview but was only willing to speak to one of us. Then last night, after Tom Ransley had explained that all three of us needed to be on the call as we were all contributing to the article but that if Parkinson had any concerns, ‘please feel free to let us know and perhaps we can put his mind at ease’, Wyatt emailed to say she was pulling the interview with Parkinson’s agreement.

At least we got into Parkinson’s diary. Our request to speak to Performance Director Brendan Purcell looks to have been kicked well and truly into the long grass with British Rowing unsure whether they should be citing post-Olympics leave or heavy work commitments as the reason why Purcell is said to be unavailable.

A reluctance to engage with the press tends to be the way British Rowing and GB Rowing like to operate. As Parkinson and his senior team ponder over a medal table drop of epic proportions – Beijing 1st place, London 1st place, Rio 1st place, Tokyo 14th place – despite receiving more funding for the Tokyo Olympic cycle than any other sport, going to ground at this moment in time is a risky strategy. Is it even a strategy?

The questions don’t go away. The list of questions just gets longer.