NEWS & ANALYSIS

Muhammed Desai was bent on confrontation - Virgin Active

Company says its goal is for its health clubs to be neutral spaces

media statement re: old eds incident

13 August 2015

Our goal at Virgin Active is for our health clubs to be neutral spaces in which members can pursue their health and wellness goals while, at the same time, accommodating the rights and freedoms of all members.

We are not in the business of restricting speech or policing personal behaviour unless it contravenes the club rules, the law or carries some kind of threat to the safety of staff and members. In all instances we seek a negotiated solution to any perceived conflict.

The T-shirt worn by Mr Desai generated strong complaints from fellow members at the Old Eds club and he was politely requested by management not to wear it in future. He aggressively declined this request and said he would force entry if he was refused. When he appeared at the club, clearly intent on making a political statement and generating confrontation, management were genuinely concerned about the potential consequences and called on the police to intervene.

This is a situation we have never encountered before and we have learned valuable lessons. We need to make it clear that no legal item of clothing is banned from Virgin Active clubs but we would hope that members would understand the need for both tolerance and respect in this space.

We do not believe our clubs should be forums for contentious political activity. Mr Desai has not been banned and is welcome to return to train as a member as long as he respects the conditions of membership.

We have sought an urgent personal meeting with Mr Desai to discuss our position. Any member who made provable threats on our premises of physical violence against Mr Desai, or any member on any occasion, will have their membership reviewed and possibly terminated.

Statement issued by Virgin Active, August 13 2015