In recent years, there has deservedly been a greatly-increased media spotlight on the need to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults during their involvement in sports activities.
There have, sadly, been many reports of criminal behaviour in years gone by, at a time when regulatory checks were far weaker than they are today. This is, though, an excellent and timely reminder of the need to affirm that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and that with the wealth of excellent advice and guidance that is freely available, there is no excuse whatsoever for failing to observe best practice.
The Sheldon Report
In November 2016, The Guardian broke the story of alleged systematic historic child abuse within the set-up of several professional football clubs. The Sheldon Report was commissioned to investigate this and delivered its findings to The FA earlier this year. The review made a number of far-reaching and deep-rooted recommendations to The FA about the conduct and management of the game at every level where it interacts with children and young people. The FA is responding actively to all of these, in the hope that the situation that some young people experienced in past decades might never be repeated.
Whilst The Sheldon Report was commissioned specifically to investigate allegations within football, its repercussions have been felt far and wide. The FA provides a number of resources from introductory guidance, appointing a Designated Safeguarding Officer and training to policies for clubs to adapt and adopt. Other sports governing bodies have likewise significantly improved their safeguarding procedures and materials – for example:
- Safe Handsfrom the England & Wales Cricket Board
- Safe to Play from the Lawn Tennis Association
- Safeguarding children in Rugby from the Rugby Football Union
If you are a sports club registered with your National Governing Body (whatever the sport) you will almost certainly have had to submit a satisfactory explanation of your safeguarding procedures as part of your annual registration.
However, if you are a general community organisation, you will need to ensure that all of your activities are correctly run and there is excellent guidance available to anyone running sports activities with children and young people from the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit. This provides a comprehensive resource library and details of training courses for staff, volunteers and coaches at all levels of sport. Sport England also has a wealth of best practice guidance available on its web site.
Similarly, the Ann Craft Trust provides specialist support to minimise the risk of harm to young people and vulnerable adults, with a range of free on-line resources available.
If you are one of our funded local groups in LB Brent and want support on a safeguarding issue or you have concerns about a child or vulnerable adult, please see:
As a charitable grant-making trust, Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST) takes its lead from our membership body, the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) and from any guidance issued by the Charity Commission. The latter rightly expects any organisation we fund to be capable of delivering its services in a safe and secure fashion and to have all of the appropriate systems of control in place.
Similarly, ACF makes the important point that as charitable funders we are neither a safeguarding regulatory authority nor the Police. We do though have a responsibility to ensure that every organisation we support not only has a robust and up-to-date safeguarding policy in place but also that it is being correctly implemented and all activities are run in a safe and secure fashion.
Our framework is:
- The safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is everyone’s responsibility
- All organisations must have:
- an appropriate safeguarding policy in place
- procedures that support its implementation
- a Designated Safeguarding Officer;
- The policy and procedures should be reviewed, ideally, at least annually;
- All participants/members/parents/carers will have a copy of the policy and know how to act if they wish to report an incident or suspicion of inappropriate behaviour;
- The policy and procedure should be publicly available eg on an organisations website or social media account.
- Funded organisations will advise us straightaway should any accusation be upheld and it should be reported to your National Governing Body and/or the Police. It will be for the Trust to consider what action, if any, to take regarding an on-going grant.
Potential applicants should be aware that the Trust will be strengthening its application process checks on safeguarding and will have no hesitation in rejecting any request where we have concerns – although we would normally discuss these with the applicant.
No-one should ever be frightened or wary of reporting their concerns and they should do so without delay.
Safe is better than sorry.
Wembley National Stadium Trust. September 2021