Speaking in the wake of Team Sky’s fifth Tour de France win in six years, and alluding to the fallout following accusations of bullying at British Cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford has warned against British teams becoming “too fluffy” and “too PC”.
Speaking to The Mirror, the Team Sky principal said: “I don’t think we should soften our stance too much. I think we should still be a nation that wants to win and do what it takes to win. You have got to be fair, you can’t have personal bias or discriminate, but lots of people who look in the mirror lie about what they see back.
“Some of them need someone to give them a tap on the shoulder and say ‘Come on’ – we all need that now and again. I am still a big believer in the carrot and the stick. That’s the way to get great success.”
The former British Cycling performance director has previously characterised his management approach as “uncompromising” and described that organisation’s culture under his watch as ‘medallist’ not sexist.
However, an internal British Cycling report carried out by Peter King in 2012 made explicit reference to “a culture of fear and bullying” and an “autocratic leadership style.”
Brailsford says that he is “all for athlete welfare” but clearly harbours concerns that an elite sports team’s edge could be blunted.
“Winning is a brutal game at times and the whole journey was built on that. We should be really careful not to get too PC about it to the point where coaches – a bit like teachers in the classroom – can’t do anything. They will have to tread carefully or someone will complain.
“Yes, I am all for athlete welfare. But there might be two tiers of winning now – winning with welfare is what we want, but winning hard is not acceptable. I don’t think the fans care either way – they want to see us win. Let’s not go too far in the other direction or we will lose the very essence of what it took to win in the first place.
“Elite sport is not about taking part – elite sport is about winning. If we get too fluffy, then we might as well accept that we just go for participation rather than out-and-out winning.”