Guiding principle

To create a safe environment for children there is a need for prevention and assessment of the key risk areas and reviews of all stakeholders who are involved. As also highlighted in the Council of Europe webinar "Checking criminal records as a tool to protect children in sport", one prevention instrument often suggested for professionals working with children is the criminal history check. By banning previously convicted offenders sport reduces the chances of new offences being committed against children in sport. This approach is popular in many countries and is often required for professional positions which involve interaction with children.

However, this is not a solution for all incidents of violence in sport. For example, most sexual crimes against children are committed by first time offenders (without previous convictions - so with a clear criminal history). A detrimental effect of having a criminal history check as the only risk assessment instrument in a child protection policy is the false feeling of safety.

When hiring new sport leaders, analysing the static and dynamic risk factors in your organisation to minimise the risk to children should be a more thorough process than simply a criminal record check. Safe recruitment systems should also include - staff screening criteria, contact with previous employer and an interview on attitudes towards children. Unsuitable sport facilities, activities, away travel and competitions can also put children’s safety at risk. The infrastructure safety checks, and an organisation self-audit are important complementary actions to minimise risk.


 Tips from partners and experts when starting with risk assessment procedures

  1. Identify risk situations in the organisation and establish mechanisms to reduce the risks such as emergency procedures (e.g. competition with overnight stay - avoid host families, coaches should not be alone with athletes). Use a checklist format and develop guidelines when a risk situation cannot be avoided.
  2. Engage all stakeholders including parents or guardians in the process of reducing risks and creating a safe, inclusive, enjoyable and child-friendly environment.
  3. Develop a code of conduct for your organisation (see area of action “Introducing a code of ethics and a code of conduct”).
  4. Consider additional vulnerabilities of young athletes (e.g. disabilities, etc.).
  5. Raise awareness and share information on how to report concerns about a situation.
  6. Consider safe recruitment procedures with the background checks as well as the criminal history (as a valuable but not the only element in a screening procedure) for every person recruited including youth sport leaders. Adequate provisions in national legislation should be in place to enable access to the screening procedures. Other means of internal procedures are essential and advised (e.g. license to practice, holding a specific license, conditions of employment, contact with previous employers, interview on attitudes towards children, qualification, competences, etc.).

Examples of practices and initiatives

Quality Standards to create safe and protective spaces for children and adolescents in sports

 Organisation responsible: Spanish High Council for Sports (Consejo Superior de Deportes)
Supporting organisations: Fundación Deporte Joven and UNICEF Spain
Authors: F. Javier Romeo-Biedma and Pepa Horno Goicoechea (Espirales Consultoría de Infancia), Spain

 Target groups of the practice: Coaches, sport leaders, Child Safeguarding Officers, managers and directors of sport facilities

 Background: The campaign “Child Sexual Abuse Stays Offside” provides a picture of the diverse aspects that need to be tackled in trainings, matches, competitions and sport environments to reduce child sexual abuse, detect it quickly and react appropriately. The Quality Standards to create safe and protective spaces for children and adolescents is one element of the set of campaign materials developed.

 Summary: The Quality Standards to ensure safe and protective spaces in sport are a key element of protection to guarantee that children and adolescents, who are more vulnerable due to their age, spend time in safe spaces with people who protect them. This is achieved by implementing the following levels below which include, which include indicators and ways to measure them.

  1. A safe and protective physical environment.
  2. A safe and protective psychological and emotional environment.
  3. Aware adults (coaches, managers, other professionals in the world of sports, families).
  4. Meaningful participation of all people involved, especially children and adolescents.

The Quality Standards are being used, together with the rest of the campaign materials by organisations including the Spanish High Council for Sport, UNICEF Spain and the Andalusian Institute for Sport.

 Timeframe: Published in 2018

 More information available here:

 Detailed description 

Issuing a clean criminal record

 Organisation responsible: 100% SPORT, Austria

 Target groups of the practice: All people working in sport organisations

 Background: Building on the EU Proposal for Strategic Action on Gender Equality (2014-2020), the Austrian Ministry responsible for sport introduced a Gender Equality Strategy with a focus on the prevention of sexual harassment in sport. Since then, a cross-organisational working group co-ordinated by 100% SPORT has been working on the campaign “For Respect and Safety in Sport” (Für Respekt und Sicherheit im Sport) to raise awareness, build capacity and educate the sport movement.

 Summary:  100% SPORT supports the agenda of making the issuing of a clean criminal record mandatory for people working in sport organisations.

It is one of the 100% SPORT Safe Sport Standards - that sport federations should ask employees and volunteers to provide a clean criminal record.

Partners: The Austrian National Olympic Committee

As part of the NOC´s safeguarding measures, the Austrian Olympic Committee requests a criminal record that provides information on whether convictions against sexual integrity and self-determination and related entries such as judicial prohibitions on activities are entered in the criminal record. In Austria, there is an additional record that informs about violations of child and youth welfare.

The Austrian Olympic Committee wants to make sure that all officials travelling with the team have a clean record.

 Timeframe: 2016 - ongoing

 More information available here

Safer recruitment in sport (checklist)

 Organisation responsible: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), United Kingdom

 Target groups of the practice: Anyone undertaking a role that involves contact with or responsibility for children (or other vulnerable groups such as adults at risks)

 Summary: To understand and develop effective recruitment and selection procedures. This will help to create a safe workforce for both paid staff and volunteers, as well as helping to screen out and discourage those who are not suitable from joining your club or organisation.

 Timeframe: year - ongoing

 More information available here

© Photo: F. ZVARDON