TV appearance sparks row between diver's mum and swimming boss
Tom Daley’s mother has hit back at criticism of her son by British Swimming chief David Sparkes in a long letter published by the Daily Mail.
Sparkes this week questioned Daley’s decision to front the television show Splash!, which aired for the first time last weekend, as an unnecessary distraction to his training.
Debbie Daley today responded angrily in a 1,600-word letter in which she claimed Sparkes – who has publicly criticised Daley before – could have lost his job had it not been for her 18-year-old son’s bronze medal on the 10 metre platform at the London Olympics.
Britain failed to hit their medal targets in the Aquatics Centre, prompting a review into performances, with Daley winning their only diving medal.
“As far as I’m aware, Tom was one of the few major success stories for British Swimming this summer... and possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job,” Mrs Daley wrote, addressing Sparkes.
“Others say that your performance was the worst of any CEO in British sport. Surely you should be thanking Tom and showing your support and gratitude?”
Mrs Daley also alleged her son had been demotivated by Sparkes’ leadership and that he had not spoken to Tom since requesting he attend the opening of a sports park in Loughborough 18 months ago.
“I find it incredible that you want to criticise him so publicly, when he does so much for your organisation and for sport in the UK – and worse, you do it by giving your opinion without any thought,” she said.
“You did not speak to Tom – or his agent – first. Is this a good way for a CEO to operate?
“It’s also baffling that you openly criticise Tom when you yourself have called in special favours for Tom to make appearances (such as that eight-hour trip to Loughborough in 2011 when I last saw you).
“A leader should motivate his team, not make them think: ’Why do I bother?’ Did you speak out to protect your UK Sport funding and be seen to do the right thing for them? Well, if UK Sport want to demotivate the key person in a sport, carry on David. Good work.
“While you may want Tom to do more training, I would like you to do leadership, media and motivation courses.”
Immediately after winning his first Olympic medal in London, Daley dedicated it to his late father, Robert, who died after a six-year battle with brain cancer aged 40 in May 2011.
Robert Daley had been a constant at poolside during his son’s career and had pledged to live long enough to see Tom compete at the Olympics.
“My bond with my son has always been strong but Rob was Tom’s rock, friend and role model,” Mrs Daley added.
“He would be spitting mad if he had read your media attacks on him over the past 12 months and would have given you a franker view than mine.”
British Swimming did not want to directly respond to Mrs Daley’s comments but did say they would “continue to work with Daley’s family, agent and coach in ensuring he achieves his goals and potential”.