Parliament hears how more action is needed to protect people in sport *H&H Plus*

  • There was no evidence in the parliamentary session to suggest equestrian sport has issues in safeguarding but the committee took a broad look at sport as a whole to establish if there are any weak spots, and what action is needed. H&H finds out more

    MORE action is needed to better protect people in sport, a parliamentary enquiry has heard.

    The House of Lords sport and recreation committee held an evidence session on safeguarding in sport, on 28 April, looking at whether enough is done to protect children and adults from abuse and exploitation.

    There was no evidence in the session to suggest equestrian sport has issues in this area, rather the committee took a broad look at sport as a whole to establish if there are any weak spots, and what action is needed to better protect people.

    Safeguarding is a broad term that covers a wide range of ways in which someone’s personal safety and wellbeing can be compromised, and sports were urged not to wait until a problem arises to take action.

    Kimberley Walsh, safeguarding adults in sport manager at safeguarding charity Ann Craft Trust, dispelled myths that safeguarding only concerns children and vulnerable adults, and explained that anybody could be an adult at risk, given their circumstances at any time.

    “So it’s relevant to everyone,” she said. “Even with all the concerns raised in the media, I think there are still sports that think they are different and they don’t need to worry because their sport is fine. It would be great if we could get to the situation where everybody is proactive and not needing to wait until that big case or multiple cases are raised.”

    Ms Walsh also said she believed there was a “lost opportunity” for legislation to be added following Baroness Tanni Grey-Thomspon’s 2017 “duty of care in sport review” that would mean sport is “further down this road now”.

    She added that there are some very good examples of sports proactively taking action, while others have a way to go, and highlighted the fact that sport organisations are often not named within legislation as a responsible body, when it would help if they were.

    A fear of what might be uncovered was cited as no reason to avoid tackling the topic. The introduction of mandatory reporting, which means a person is required by law to report issues they know are happening to others or face sanctions themselves, was raised, as was the possibility of having an independent body to deal with safeguarding in sport.

    Gary Cliffe, an ambassador at Offside Trust and detective at Staffordshire Police, who was one of former football coach and convicted paedophile Barry Bennell’s victims, said he believes there is a need for new legislation.

    “You will not see this [type of abuse]. It is behind closed doors, so all you ever get is suspicion [and] rumour,” he said, adding while there is “no silver bullet”, mandatory reporting would be a major step forward.

    “We are not ever going to stop this, we would be naive to think someone isn’t going to slip through. But if we can hold our hands up and say we have tried our best and prevented the opportunities for all sorts of abuse, then I, and we, can look ourselves in the mirror.”

    Members of the panel also welcomed much of the progress that has already happened in many sports as well as the recent closure of the “positions of trust” loophole for sports coaches. This came as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in March and means coaches who engage in sexual relationships with 16- and 17-year-olds in their care will now be breaking the law. This was also welcomed by the equestrian world.

    Lynne Bailey, head of integrity and HR at British Equestrian, told H&H after the session that the organisation works with its member bodies to seek to ensure that all children, young people and adults at risk are safeguarded from abuse and have an enjoyable experience, in whatever way they choose to be involved with equestrianism.

    “We support the change in the legislation regarding positions of trust and see it as a positive step forward in safeguarding our young riders, allowing them to safely enjoy the sport they love,” she said.

    “The discussions at the sport and recreation committee on 28 April raised some interesting areas for further debate.

    “All sport national governing bodies, including British Equestrian, have made significant improvements in their safeguarding processes over the last five to six years, but any further steps which can be taken to make it easier for us to deter potential perpetrators and make our sport safer for children, young people and adults at risk would also be welcomed.”

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