MORE than 80 swimmers have signed a letter of support for suspended ex-Wyre Forest Swimming Club coach Alan Bircher.

It was confirmed last week that Bircher, who is director of swimming at Ellesmere Titans, and one other coach, had been suspended by Swim England following welfare concerns that allegedly uncovered 'bullying and fat shaming'.

As a result of a review by Swim England, Mr Bircher was not nominated to coach Team GB in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The letter of support is the brainchild of former Ellesmere members and elite swimmers Hannah Knight and Chloe Golding. Other signatories include European and Commonwealth medallist Freya Anderson and Hector Pardoe who are both set to compete in Japan.

The letter said: "We are shocked and saddened to hear the news resulting in the suspension of Alan Bircher and his colleague from coaching at Ellesmere College Titans.

"As past and present swimmers of theirs, all training at Ellesmere College, we are confused as to how these allegations have come to light after we all had such amazing experiences swimming at Titans.

"Alan has given his life to swimming as an athlete, then as a coach.

"Without a doubt, he is one of the best coaches in Great Britain, helping so many of his athletes to compete on an international stage, most recently three to the Tokyo Olympics.

"None of us have ever experienced any hurtful or damaging behaviour from Alan and the coaches at Titans.

"We have only ever had the opposite – Alan is a coach who pushes us to be at our best, who makes sure you have a great time while getting there...the Titans coaches affected by this decision are both hardworking individuals who only ever want the best for the young people in their care and do not deserve to be in the position they have found themselves in.

"Not only has Alan helped us grow as athletes, but also as people.

"We would not be who we are today without him. We owe so much to Alan and the Titans and are so grateful that we have been able to be coached by him and experience such a great team."

In a previous joint statement, Swim England and British Swimming said: "Swim England will remain working with the club until such time as we are content our robust safeguarding and welfare procedures and policies are embedded within the governance of the club."

Mr Bircher, aged 39, was head coach at Wyre Forest Swimming Club for two years - from 2010 to 2012.