Sport can educate and empower children facing adversity. It can help them build essential life skills and better futures. Sport can improve educational outcomes, and promote positive physical and mental health. Sport can help children affected by war or natural disasters.
But, sport can only do this if it is delivered in a safe and supportive environment.
This is why, more than 10 years ago, organisations from around the world came together to develop the International Safeguards for Children in Sport.
United by the vision: All children, everywhere, safe in sport – the International Safeguards for Children in Sport now has members from 6 continents, all working to improve their day-to-day practice to prevent harm and abuse of children in sport. From global sporting bodies like the IOC to smaller NGOs serving children from a single community – everyone in sport has a role to play in making sport safe for children.
As part of spreading this message, every year on August 8th, we celebrate#SafeSportDay – a day where we invite sports organisations to celebrate what they have been doing to make their sporting activities safe for children, where we hear from athletes about why safe sport is so important, and where we ask new organisations to join the movement and take the pledge to make sport safe for children.
To mark #SafeSportDay, It’s a Penalty and our partners are hosting Safe Sport Day Panel on Tuesday 8 August at 11am BST (8pm AEST). The expert panel will include an important discussion about safeguarding in sport and keeping every child, everywhere, safe from abuse and exploitation. To register to watch the online panel, please click here.
So why is this work so important? Well, tens of millions of children and young people take part in sporting activities every day across the world. For some, this is purely for recreation and fun. Others may participate in sport for development programmes, or for some young people, sport may be their chosen future career, either as talented athletes, as coaches, or as officials.
All children have the right to participate in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. Their rights are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Whilst the power of sport is undeniable, the assumption that sport is only a force for good for children is now being challenged. All too often, sport is a place where children experience harm and abuse. From those who seek careers in sport to get close to children so they can abuse them, to emotional violence in the form of initiation or ‘hazing’ rituals – sport, like wider society, can be a place where children experience harm, and we need to do everything we can to make it a safe space.
For children competing at elite levels, there are additional pressures, as well as additional risks, such as being forced to train or compete while injured, or feeling the weight of family expectations around a future professional sports career.
We must never forget that children are always children first and athletes second – and we should recognise we all have a duty of care for them.
“The most important element in sport is the people involved, whether they are taking part, volunteering, coaching or paid employees. The success of sport, in terms of helping people achieve their potential, relies on putting people – their safety, wellbeing and welfare – at the centre of what sport does. The International Safeguards play an important role in supporting sports organisations around the world to fulfil their duty of care and make sport safer for children everywhere.”
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, 11-time Paralympic Gold Medallist and author of the Duty of Care in Sport Review for the UK Government.
The case for action is undeniable – every child, everywhere deserves to be safe in sport – and we all have a role to play. This #SafeSportDay what will you do to make a difference?
Our members around the world are all taking action in different ways, from organisations like It’s a Penalty raising awareness of the importance of safeguarding, to those providing a platform for people with lived experience of abuse to play an active role in building a safer sports sector. From members focused on building the capacity of sports organisations to better manage risks and concerns, to those helping strengthen national safeguarding policy – not to forget all those sports organisations playing their part by making their own activities safer.
By acting together, we can, and will, make a difference for children everywhere!
Written by Liz Twyford
Coordinator of the International Safeguards for Children in Sport