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Kids' safety in sport strengthened ahead of Olympics

School rounders match. Image by Sport England

People who work with children have in time for Rio 2016 the first ever clear guidance on how to bring into practice new global safeguarding protocols for sport.

Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC are among 82 worldwide organisations signed to the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, which detail how to handle children’s sports activities.

International Safeguards for Children in Sport: a guide for organisations who work with children aims to show adults worldwide how they can use the safeguards to protect the millions of children doing sport every day.

The new guide is based on research by Brunel University London and comes as children’s sports events snowball ahead of the games.

“Sport has many benefits for communities and individuals. But like any social setting, sport is a context where there is potential for abuse,” said psychologist Dr Daniel Rhind, who led the research.

“When the world’s eyes are on sport, it is important to emphasise that sport in itself is not all good and that there are risks which need to be identified and mitigated,” he said.

 The standards apply to all levels of sport. But “research shows children are particularly vulnerable at elite or approaching the elite level,” said Dr Rhind. “There needs to be a sport specific set of Safeguards and resources. This highlights their relevance to people in sport. The guide shows organisations with no safeguarding measures in place how to set up their own and what other groups are doing to protect children.”

 A shocking 75 per cent of UK 18-24 year olds experienced emotional abuse while taking part in organised sport, according to figures from the NSPCC. While many found it a positive experience, the 2011 study of more than 6,000 young people also found 27% experienced sexual harassment and 24% physical abuse.

 But children in sport also risk harm from things like over-training, being asked to do age-inappropriate activities, and people having unrealistic expectations of them. The new advice will help people working and volunteering in schools, sports clubs and community groups world-wide minimise such risks.

 “World attention will soon focus on the Olympic flame with its motto, Citius – Altius – Fortius, or faster – higher – stronger. Through the International Safeguards and this guidance, we can also help sport keep children safer,” Dr Rhind said.