Our story

The British Elite Athletes Association was formed as the British Athletes Commission in January 2004 by a group of athletes looking to provide their peers with a representative body.

Rower Guin Batten and swimmer Marc Woods launched the organisation and pentathlete Kate Allenby was appointed its first Chair.

Other early figures included Kirsty Hay (curling), Giles Long (para-swimming), Alison Williamson (archery), John Mayock (athletics), John Robertson (sailing), Karen Roberts (judo) and Graham Gristwood (orienteering), while rower Peter Gardner became the first employee as Chief Executive.

Swimmer Karen Pickering joined as Chair at the end of 2004 and served for 12 years.

The first meeting of the BEAA (then-BAC) in 2004.

Work originally focused on giving athletes a voice, and the BAC began to raise awareness of its services by visiting sports and athletes across the country. Soon athletes were able to receive help with their contracts, referrals for legal support, representation in anti-doping cases and selection reviews.

One major early achievement was the athlete pension scheme, set up by Gardner to allow athletes to begin a pension and receive tax relief on it – both of which were previously not possible.

Other successes included the launch of Athletes Direct, which allowed athletes to earn money through school visits, and the BAC’s vocal efforts to prevent random drug testing in the 2012 athletes’ village. However the organisation continued to operate with a skeleton staff.

The BEAA's first CEO, former rower Peter Gardner

The BAC’s growth began when athlete welfare – and its relative prioritisation alongside medal success – came to the fore around 2016, as allegations of cultural mismanagement emerged across several sports.

Following an independent UK Sport review into athlete voice and representation across the system, the BEAA received greater investment as a key organisation to help British sport ‘win well’.

When allegations of abuse and mistreatment within British gymnastics began to surface in 2020, the BEAA stepped in to both campaign for an independent review, and – funded by UK Sport and Sport England – establish a comprehensive mechanism through which those affected by mistreatment could share their experience and access appropriate support.

This work was highlighted in the Whyte Review – the independent review commissioned to investigate the allegations – in which Anne Whyte KC said: “In particular I would like to thank the BEAA for its tireless work in supporting the individuals who contacted them.”

Members of the BEAA's full-time staff in 2023

In summer 2022 the British Athletes Commission rebranded to the British Elite Athletes Association following the appointment of CEO Anna Watkins.

Today the BEAA provides direct support to one in 10 elite athletes each year in addition to running the Athlete Advisory Forum, Athlete Representatives, a private digital platform to keep alumni connected with sport, athlete networks, workshops, advocacy in decision-making and more. Our work has expanded, but our mission is the same as 2004: to stand with elite British athletes.


The BEAA is with you.
Reach out to us using any of the channels here.
Alternatively, get in touch via our live chat.
More about the BEAA
Seeing the work that’s been done is wonderful. Life isn’t always perfect for athletes or anybody, but the expertise and the professionalism is great
Peter Gardner, former CEO
Person Frame
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.