3 insights from our Safeguarding in Sport webinar
Sports offer a range of benefits to individuals and society, including physical health, mental agility, social bonds, and healthy competition.
However, every sports organisation has a responsibility to ensure that participants are offered a safe and supportive environment where they can develop their skills and careers without fear of abuse or harm.
On April 4th, Clue hosted a webinar that brought together leading safeguarding experts to discuss the state of safeguarding in sport and explore opportunities to improve safe sport culture supported by technology and data.
Attendees had the opportunity to hear from Dion Raitt, who shared his first-hand experiences of child sexual abuse (CSA) as a youth footballer and provided important advice for sports organisations to enhance their safeguarding practices.
In the context of sport, the discussions and recommendations shared by the panellists offered practical advice for all organisations to enhance their safeguarding practices and ensure the safety and well-being of individuals in their care.
Led by Peter Spindler, an independent safeguarding advisor for Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, and former Metropolitan Police Commander and head of Operation Yewtree, the full panel included:
- Dion Raitt, former youth player at Peterborough United and Child Sexual Abuse survivor
- Anne Tiivas OBE, Chair of Trustees for Safe Sport International, a global charity which seeks to improve the capacity of sports to safeguard athletes
- Ann Stuart MBE, Safeguarding Officer for two major sports organisations
- Kath Bennett, Safeguarding Case Manager at a large sports national governing body, recent Postgraduate certified in Leading Culture Change in Safeguarding, and a Trustee with mental health charity Brave Mind
Below, we share several key insights from the discussion that followed Dion Raitt’s perspective as a CSA survivor. However, we encourage you to watch the webinar to draw your own perspectives and additional learnings.
Invest in volunteers
Volunteers are the backbone of the sports industry, and their contributions should be appreciated and recognised. The safety of athletes should be a top priority, and investing in safeguarding training for volunteers is necessary to achieve this.
Policies and procedures alone are insufficient to guarantee safety. They must be enforced by knowledgeable and trained individuals. Investing in safeguarding training for volunteers will ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to identify and report any potential safety risks effectively.
Additionally, verbal, and non-verbal communication between coaches and athletes is vital to fostering safe environments. The impact of negative language and behaviour on athletes can have long-lasting effects on their self-worth and performance. Therefore, investing in training volunteers to communicate positively and empathetically with athletes is essential.
Governing bodies have a responsibility to ensure that coaches are not just focused on winning but also on creating a safe and nurturing environment for athletes. Training coaches to “coach with kindness, with empathy, and with the consent of the participant” is critical to achieving this goal.
In an age of data, safeguarding personnel face significant challenges in managing the ever-increasing volume of reports. Technology can provide opportunities to overcome these challenges and ensure that safeguarding cases and investigations are robust.
An intelligence and investigation management system such as Clue can be invaluable for large governing bodies. It replaces the outdated use of spreadsheets with a centralised platform that can help manage and triage large volumes of reports.
Additionally, users can record decisions transparently, ensuring that all actions and information sharing are accurately documented.
This audit trail can be critical in cases that take years to develop towards a prosecution. The information captured by an intelligence and investigation management system can be used to build and strengthen cases, ensuring that justice is delivered.
As safeguarding awareness improves, this technology is “absolutely essential” for organisations looking to manage increasing volumes of reports while ensuring that safeguarding cases and investigations are handled appropriately – and that safeguarding efforts are robust, transparent, and effective.
Although there have been significant advances in safeguarding awareness and no-blame reporting, fear of reprisals remains a significant barrier to reporting concerns among peers and participants.
Even with anonymous reporting systems, many individuals may not feel comfortable reporting colleagues’ behaviour for fear of negative consequences on their reputation, career opportunities, or personal relationships.
To overcome this hesitancy, it is essential to create a positive and supportive environment where safeguarding is normalised.
Talking about safeguarding positively at leadership level and encouraging everyone in the organisation to keep the issue on the agenda is crucial. This approach will help individuals feel more confident in reporting any concerns they may have, knowing that they will be taken seriously and treated with respect.
Creating a culture where safeguarding is seen as a normal part of sports activities is vital to ensure concerns are recognised and appropriately addressed as early as possible. This will better protect both individuals and organisations.
Encouraging dialogue and discussion about safeguarding topics, promoting the importance of reporting, and normalising safeguarding practices will help individuals feel more comfortable in speaking out.
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