Resignations prompt BCA to renew efforts against bullying and call for improved behaviour

Les Williams photo courtesy of Gerik Rhoden
Les Williams photo courtesy of Gerik Rhoden

Les Williams has resigned as BCA chair with immediate effect. Phil Rowsell has been co-opted into the role and joins Howard Jones as Treasurer and Russell Myers as acting Secretary on the BCA Executive.

Les has worked with both BCA and its predecessor NCA in a variety of roles over a long period. He will, however, continue to organise Hidden Earth.

Les has contributed more to British caving in a few years than many of us could achieve in a lifetime of getting underground. To hear that Les will continue his involvement in Hidden Earth will be welcomed by the many who eagerly look forward to the event each year. At Darkness Below we wish Les well, and are glad he won’t entirely disappear from the caving scene!

The BCA have issued a statement from Phil Rowsell, highlighting recent bullying problems and condemning the actions of some, including some council members. We’ve reprinted the statement in full below. Taking up the mantle from Les it’s clear Phil is determined to continue efforts to stamp out the culture of intimidation and disrespect which has caused so much damage. For clarification he has also confirmed his belief that Les was in no way a party to the bullying, and that the initial BCA statement by Howard Jones confirms Les’s resignation was for personal reasons.

As you have been informed, Les sadly resigned yesterday. I hope all Council Members will thank Les for all the efforts he put in as Chair in what has to be said are difficult times. Furthermore, we should encourage him to continue with leadership of Hidden Earth as to lose Les from this would be catastrophic for British Caving. At present, I feel it is one of the only great positives of British Caving.

As a result of his resignation, and in conjunction with comments by council members on my chairing of the previous Zoom Council meeting, the BCA executive have asked me to stand in for Les as co-opted BCA chair, which I have agreed. There has been much criticism that the BCA has been leaderless, and it needs a strong leader – I hope you are prepared for this ūüėČ

I (and the Executive) intend and are determined to turn the BCA into what it should be – a cohesive progressive national body that serves and is appreciated by its members. I hope you will want to be part of this quest. I will assume this position until the next AGM and potentially give me further time after, to accomplish what I have set out to do.

While sometimes having the reputation of being a bit fiery, I hope that you have seen that I am actually keen for mediation and solution, and I would encourage you to come and discuss with me any issues and problems you might have so we can find a rapid solution.

The BCA has recently had an unprecedented procession of resignations, which quite frankly is unsustainable, and has to change. All those who have resigned have sighted “the infighting and complete disrespect for each other” being one of the main reasons. I too have to say that the level of infighting and bullying etc has been unprecedented with personal attacks on the UK Caving forum, complaints being filed, requesting access to personal emails, even threatening of court action.

Sadly, much of this has been done by Council members!

Is this really how we want to behave and portray the BCA and caving’s image to our membership and as equally important, to the general public and the world? Anyone looking in from outside would think we are a laughing stock, acting like children (as I already have previously stated) rather than the great British caving organisation we are.

I would like ALL council member to spend a period of time to reflect on their OWN behaviour (not other peoples but their own behaviour, not to blame others for actions but to consider the consequences of their

actions) and understand that this must STOP if BCA is to move from this appalling state it has arrived at. Moving forward, I and the BCA Executive will not tolerate this sort of behaviour. Furthermore, what has happened in the past needs to be left behind and we need to concentrate on moving forward.

While the BCA does some things really well, the turnover of so many people has left much of BCA business in disarray. Many things have been missed, parked or forgotten. These problems have further been amplified by Covid-19, which has effected us all in many different ways. Hopefully with this strong new Executive and tools such as Zoom etc, we can start to pick up the pieces and put BCA back on the rails and functioning correctly. The Executive will formulate a plan of how to move forward shortly. Once this has been developed, we will pass it to Council. In the meantime, I hope Council Members and the membership will give us a little breathing space and time to take stock and produce a cohesive, well thought out plan that we hope you will buy into rather than an instant knee jerk reaction. Furthermore, I hope that members will appreciate we are all volunteers and this action plan will take time to implement. We will focus on what the Executive sees important to tackle first (with consultation of course) which may not necessarily agree with your list of priorities. I hope in the efforts (to move BCA forward) you will both accept and understand this, as well as all pull together to achieve this.

Summing up, I look forward to this challenge with some trepidation, but also with a positive feeling from signs already seen, that if we all pull together, we can move the BCA from its current (I would say fragmented) state, to that of a cohesive progressive national body that serves and is valued by its members.

I hope you will all support me (and the Executive) in this desire and in turn, I hope I won’t let you down.


Phil Rowsell

Acting BCA Chair