NSPCC’s ‘Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week’ campaign

Monday October 3rd 2022


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

The NSPCC launch this sports safety campaign, backed by Scottish sporting bodies and Children 1st, as new poll reveals almost a fifth of parents (15%) surveyed in Scotland are not confident they could spot the signs if their child was suffering sexual, physical or emotional abuse at their local sports club.

The research carried out by YouGov on behalf of the children’s charity also found that one in eight parents in Scotland were not confident they knew how to raise concerns with their child’s sports club about their child’s safety. The NSPCC wants to ensure that all parents have the knowledge and confidence to raise safeguarding concerns. The figures are based on 92 parents of children aged 3 to 16 years old who attend sports clubs across Scotland.

Furthermore, new data has revealed the number of contacts to the NSPCC Helpline from adults from across the UK with safeguarding questions or concerns about children in a sports setting has almost doubled in the last five years.

The campaign, backed by the Scottish Football Association (SFA), Netball Scotland and the Strathclyde Sirens, as well as abuse survivors Sir Bradley Wiggins and Paul Stewart, runs until Sunday, October 9. It offers advice and information to empower parents to play a key role in helping to keep their children safe in sport.

The campaign aims to provide parents and carers with the right knowledge and resources so they can make confident informed decisions when raising concerns with their child’s sport club. Advice tools and supporting information are available from the NSPCC and its Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU). Children 1st also provides a helpful guide for parents on finding a safe sports club for their child.

An adult who experienced abuse as a child in sport told an NSPCC Helpline practitioner:

“The gymnastics club I went to as a child was obsessed with diets and the weight of the gymnasts. The gymnasts were weighed twice a week. If they were considered overweight or fat, their weights were written on a whiteboard for everyone to read, the gymnasts were shouted at and humiliated by the coaches. As a result of their cruelty, I developed an eating disorder.”

A mother told the NSPCC Helpline:

“My daughter attended a gymnastics club from the age of 5 until she was 7. During the two years that she was there she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. The coach screamed and shouted and pushed her to the floor even when she was crying. The coach told my daughter that if she complained to her parents, she would be made to train even harder. Other coaches saw these incidents and never intervened. My daughter has since developed mental health issues and anxiety”

Ross McGowan, Wellbeing and Protection Co-ordinator at the Scottish FA, said: “We are pleased to support this campaign which aims to keep children safe from all forms of abuse in sport settings.

“We will work with our clubs and members to promote the campaign toolkit and encourage as many parents and carers as possible to understand the important role they play in the bigger safeguarding picture of sport.

“We hope that by promoting this campaign, more parents will ask those important questions around safeguarding when their child takes part in sports in Scotland, helping us to ensure our clubs are offering a safe, fun, and engaging environment.”

Claire Nelson, CEO of Netball Scotland and Strathclyde Sirens, said: “We are proud to once again be supporting NSPCC Scotland’s Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week. It’s vital that children get the opportunity to take part in sport safely and this campaign will equip parents with the knowledge they need to feel confident that their child is safe in a sport’s setting.

“As children begin to get out and about again after the pandemic, many parents and children will be feeling anxious about joining clubs and activities for the first time or resuming them. This campaign provides all the resources, tools and information parents need to empower families to get back to doing what they love – in a safe environment.”

Paul Stewart, a former Premiership and International footballer who played for Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, was sexually abused by a football coach as a child and now works to promote safety in sport, including advising the Scottish FA on safeguarding children in football.

He said: “It is absolutely vital that safeguarding is a top priority in children’s sport. And the importance of campaigns such as the NSPCC’s Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week, which raises awareness of the issue and empowers parents to play their part, cannot be understated.

“Strong safeguarding policies in sport clubs and good parental awareness of them make it much harder for abusers to target children in these environments. That is why it is so important that parents and carers know how to access safeguarding information for their child’s club, are able to identify signs of abuse and have the confidence to speak out about any issues.

“Every child should be able to enjoy sport without the risk of abuse.”

Over the years the NSPCC Helpline have opened dedicated phonelines numbers for different sports to help support those impacted by abuse in sport. Currently a free dedicated NSPCC helpline commissioned by British Cycling has been set up in response to a number of individuals speaking out about non-recent abuse, including former professional cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins CBE, who revealed earlier this year he had been groomed by a former coach.

Sir Bradley said: “I back the NSPCC’s Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week campaign which strives to prevent abuse of any kind happening to children in sport. We must make sport safe for children, and make it easier for parents, and indeed all people in sport, to recognise and understand how they themselves can support a safer sports environment.”

As well as social media support from sporting clubs and figures across the country, virtual webinars for parents to promote safeguarding in youth sport will run throughout the week, including by the Premier League and another by The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM).

Michelle North, Director of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit, said: “For many of us, it was playing at our local grassroots sports clubs as children where we first encountered a deep lifelong love and passion for sport. Every child and young person deserves to enjoy sport in an environment that is safe from abuse and harm and where they can play within a culture that advocates for their care and wellbeing.

“Parents and carers play a key role in keeping children safe in sport. This is why during the NSPCC’s Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week campaign, we want to empower parents and carers with the knowledge, information and confidence needed to uphold child safeguarding.”

For the latest news from the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit, follow @theCPSU on Twitter.

To support the NSPCC’s Keeping Your Child Safe in Sport Week on social media, follow the campaign using #SafeInSport

For more information about the campaign and to gain access to the supporting resources please visit: www.nspcc.org.uk/safeinsport

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