Brunel University London International Research Network for Athlete Welfare, supported by UNICEF, the world leading children’s organisation, have formed an ambitious new initiative that aims to end bullying, discrimination and abuse of athletes by establishing a set of global standards for sport.
Safe Sports International (SSI) is comprised of a panel of experts on sport, child protection, education, security and sports medicine. It aims to ensure that sport clubs and organisations have access to advice, support and education needed to develop protocols to protect athletes from harm.
To do this, they intend to make safe sport policies and practices a criteria that nations would have to fill were they to host a major international sporting event. Despite 20 years of research dedicated to raising awareness of exploitation in sport that includes sexual, physical and emotional abuse, there are still very few policies in place to deal with the problem.
Professor Celia Brackenridge, Emeritus Professor at Brunel University London’s Centre for Sport, Health and Wellbeing, said: “Abuse of any kind has no place in sport, but for too long it has gone unchecked and unpunished. Research carried out over the past 20 years has shown us just how prevalent the problem is and that’s why we believe it is time to set international standards, to understand what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, said: “Playing and participating in sport is an essential part of every childhood. It not only keeps children healthy, but it can give them confidence, new skills and break down social barriers. But for too many children, their love of sport is clouded by abuse and harm.
“Regardless of whether a child has dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete or just wants to have a kick around in the park with their friends, they should be able to do so safe from harm. We hope this is the first step to ensure that happens for children everywhere.”
Safe Sport International will now talk to an international audience of governments, committees, sporting organisations and abuse charities and seek to agree a set of standards.
The next step is to establish an organisational structure, with plans to launch SSI officially at the end of 2015.
Mehdi Punjwani