WPA Safe Sport

Tackling abuse in sport the right way: New guidance on establishing effective Safe Sport Entities


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WPA Safe Sport

The World Players Association today launched Establishing Effective Safe Sport Entities, a concise guide on the key principles and essential functions of entities established to address and remedy the scourge of abuse in sport. Developed together with The Army of Survivors and the Sport & Rights Alliance, the guide provides sports bodies, governments, player associations, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders with a clear benchmark to ensure safe sport entities are able to prevent, investigate and respond to abuse in a manner that protects the safety, humanity, dignity and voice of impacted athletes.

Recent and continuing revelations of endemic, appalling and systemic abuse of athletes, often fostered by enabling cultures of sporting norms, nepotism, cover-up, and retaliation, have triggered a rush to establish safe sport initiatives. While potentially an important step, these processes commonly have significant shortcomings in purpose, culture, capacity, expertise, and transparency – often exacerbating harm for victims and survivors. Athletes turning to such entities report a lack of support and safety, an absence of trauma-informed approaches, ineffective reporting procedures, a legalistic and adversarial system of dispute resolution, and gaps when it comes to meaningful reparation and remedy.

Athlete trust – essential to the success of any safe sport initiative – has too often been destroyed by being forced into a system principally designed to protect the reputation of the sports body itself as opposed to identifying the justice needs of victims and systemic causal factors. Some sports bodies and governments have made the dangerous assumption that the already problematic sports integrity framework – designed around challenges such as anti-doping and match-fixing – is capable of addressing the particular challenge of abuse and the sporting environments which enable it.

Establishing Effective Safe Sport Entities

Based on these experiences and coupled with the knowledge of experts in the field of trauma and abuse, the guide articulates six key principles that need to be embedded in the establishment and operations of safe sport entities to ensure that initiatives can deliver justice and support for survivors:

  1. Human Rights-Based
  2. Survivor-Centred
  3. Independency & Accountability
  4. Safety & Accessibility
  5. Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
  6. Effective Remedy

In addition, the guide identifies five essential functions that such entities need to fulfil in order to respond to the needs of survivors and drive the necessary systemic change to achieve the stated safe sport purpose:

  1. Support
  2. Reporting
  3. Investigation
  4. Remedy
  5. Prevention

The released guidance comes at a critical point in time, as FIFA is looking at establishing a structure on a global and multi-sport level, and other national-level initiatives are underway in several countries under the guidance of national governments.

World Players Executive Director Brendan Schwab said: “Abuse in sport is continuing to destroy the lives of thousands of players around the world. We cannot wait for the system to come up with a solution, as the system is part of the problem. There is an urgent need to establish new and carefully designed structures that can deal with these cases and meet the individual, collective and systemic justice needs of victims, survivors and athletes generally. This guide provides clear criteria to ensure that those initiatives can be effective, safe, trauma-informed, survivor-centred, and deliver the systemic change needed.”

FIFPRO Vice President Camila Garcia said: "In the face of the systemic and appalling experience of abuse we have seen in football, this expert guide – informed by the experience of survivors – is a collective and proactive effort to create more responsive and effective institutions for the protection of our athletes."

FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman said: "Unfortunately, sport has shown to be a high risk environment for abuse and it is everyone's responsibility to create stronger, victim-centered responses to these threats. This guide is meant to show what this can mean in practice – and how we can build capacity across organisations in and around sport for effective and trustworthy entities that safeguard athletes and other participants, investigate and punish abuse, harassment and worse as well as provide support to victims and whistle blowers."