Judo: Clubs and coaches show discontent: There are growing problems facing the hierarchy of British judo. Philip Nicksan reports

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The Independent Online
THE crisis in British judo is deepening with calls being made for an extraordinary general meeting to investigate the loss of all four Olympic coaches.

Concern has also been voiced at remarks made at a party by the chairman of the British Judo Association, George Kerr.

In a week which saw Kerr present the BJA's case to the Sports Council for a pounds 1.5m grant over four years, prominent figures have said they are not happy with recent developments.

Elizabeth Viney, Britain's first national women's coach, said: 'A number of clubs and club coaches have indicated to me that they are considering leaving the association. I think there is a major problem, and we need an EGM to ask some serious questions.'

The main issue concerning people in the sport is a continuing dispute with the two former Olympic team managers, Roy Inman, who led the women's team to three Olympic medals in Barcelona, and Arthur Mapp, the men's team manager. Inman resigned but is taking the BJA to the industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal. He has been accused of 'financial irregularities', which he denies. He was stripped of his judo licence, and now has a part-time job at an infants school.

Mapp was made redundant and has also taken the BJA to the industrial tribunal.

Mick Leigh, the former chairman of the BJA, said: 'I think that Roy Inman and Arthur Mapp have been treated abysmally. I have seen some documents concerning the alleged financial irregularities and I think that Inman has been grossly abused.'

There is separate concern over remarks made at a Burns Night party for selected members of the British judo squads, both senior and junior, hosted by Kerr at the RAF Club in Edinburgh in January.

During the formal speeches, he recited a Burns poem, 'To The Lassies', which included frequent use of a four-letter word. And he introduced Wyn Bolton, one of the senior coaches and a mother of a 15-year-old girl, as a 'woman that these guys will want to take to bed'.

It fell to Sharon Rendle, the Olympic bronze medallist and twice world champion, to make the formal response to Kerr's introductions. Although she did not remark on Kerr's comments at the time, she admitted yesterday: 'If I was a man and my wife was there when someone said that about her, I would have done something.'

Bolton subsequently wrote a letter of complaint to the BJA. Kerr responded this week with a letter to all the squad members at the party. It read: 'I understand that embarrassment was caused to some members of our group attending the Burns Night evening during the recent select squad training sessions in Edinburgh.

'On reflection, I appreciate that the traditionally robust style of the evening may have been inappropriate and regret if offence was caused where none was intended.'

A separate letter was sent to Bolton, but yesterday she said she would take the matter further. 'I am not happy with the response of George Kerr and I am sending another letter to the Board of Directors.'

Kerr admitted reading the Burns poem. He said: 'The Burns Night is a very robust night and if I upset anybody I apologise. I can't remember saying those things about Wyn Bolton. I wasn't drunk at the time but I may have said something about these guys who want to take this woman to bed.

'It has been blown out of all proportion and taken out of context. I have nothing to be ashamed of.'

Leigh said: 'I feel very sad that the activities of a BJA official should be the cause of rumour and innuendo at national level and I would be very shocked if I discovered that the stories I have been hearing are founded on truth.'

Concern of a different kind was raised by John Rogers, of Chertsey Judo Club, who has written to the Board of Directors formally requesting a statement.

Referring to the rumours from the party in Edinburgh, he said: 'I understand that many coaches and players themselves appear to have avoided putting a complaint in writing in case it jeopardises their future in judo. Having been a member for 26 years, I find this, if true, very disturbing.'

The High Wycombe Judo Centre has been given a grant of pounds 250,000 from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and a further pounds 50,000 from the Sports Council towards a pounds 450,000, 26-bed dormitory project to be used for squad training. The centre was developed as a Centre of Excellence by Roy Inman, who used it as his base for the women's squad. Last month he was informed that since his licence was withdrawn he could no longer teach or even practise on the Centre of Excellence sessions.