England Athletics rule that Ian Roberts’ behaviour was unacceptable given his positions as chair and welfare and safeguarding lead at the ESAA

Ian Roberts has been given a written warning following an investigation into the role he played in a case of online bullying when holding the position of chair at the English Schools Athletics Association (ESAA).

Roberts was accused of joining in with an online attack that the now banned athletics official Paul Baxter directed at Katey Ross, a volunteer administrator on the popular Facebook group I Was, Or Am, A Runner.

An initial inquiry by the ESAA found in June that there was “no case to answer” although Roberts’ subsequent act of blocking Ross on social media was described as “ill-judged” given the fact he was not only chair at the ESAA but also the organisation’s safeguarding and welfare lead.

However, an appeal inquiry overseen by England Athletics concluded in mid-August that he should be given a written warning and that his behaviour was “unacceptable”.

A panel also found that ESAA policies relating to codes of conduct and its complaints and procedures were not fit for purpose, although the ESAA is now acting to improve these areas.

Furthermore, it was ruled inappropriate for the same person to hold the multiple positions such as chair and safeguarding and welfare lead at the same time in future.

The panel at the second inquiry concluded that “Roberts be served with a written warning that his conduct in this matter was unacceptable in relation to the positions he holds in ESAA.”

Ross said: “The fact that Ian Roberts will be served with a written warning that his conduct in this matter was unacceptable justifies my complaint and demonstrates that online abuse will not be tolerated. It’s clear that Ian Roberts’ actions brought the reputation of the ESAA into disrepute.

“ESAA, when informing me of the sanction against Ian Roberts, acknowledged that a number of their policies and procedures were found to be not fit for purpose. This highlights the need for far better governance and oversight of the ESAA. Particularly given that they receive significant funding each year from England Athletics.

“I hope the outcome of this case serves as a warning to other school and youth sports associations that if they don’t have a complaints policy in place and no code of conduct to hold officers accountable for their behaviour, they risk ending up with those in positions of power believing they are accountable to no one.”

When approached by AW the ESAA declined to comment.

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