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What is safeguarding in sport?

Boy looking at camera holding basketball above his head

Safeguarding in sport means protecting children and young people from abuse, preventing harm and promoting their wellbeing.

For sports clubs and organisations this means having:

  • effective safeguarding policies and procedures
  • codes of conduct for sport
  • safe recruitment processes
  • relevant training for staff and volunteers.

Many national governing bodies (NGBs) provide detailed guidance and templates about safeguarding policies and procedures for affiliated clubs, individuals and organisations to adopt and apply. The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) also has a range of safeguarding information, resources and tools.

What is duty of care and safeguarding in sport?

Sports clubs and organisations have a duty of care to children and young people, and safeguarding is an important aspect of this duty of care. This means that organisations should make sure children and young people are safe and their welfare is protected. Effective safeguarding policies and procedures, alongside relevant codes of conduct, are essential in ensuring the duty of care is met.

Duty of care also has a legal meaning which means there are specific requirements defined by law. For sports clubs and organisations, this legal duty of care is covered by health and safety legislation.

> Find out more about duty of care in sport on the CPSU website

Why is child protection important for a sports leader?

Taking part in sport should be fun and enjoyable for children and young people. And, if they feel safe, they are more likely to thrive. Safeguarding and child protection is essential in developing a safe and inclusive environment. As well as understanding their safeguarding and child protection responsibilities, it’s important that sports coaches and leaders:

  • know how to recognise the signs of abuse
  • have the confidence to challenge poor practice, and
  • are able to respond appropriately to concerns – including understanding what steps they should take to report and record concerns.

> Learn more about recognising and responding to abuse

Who is responsible for safeguarding in sport?

Everyone who comes into contact with children and young people through sport or physical activity has a responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. This includes coaches, officials, paid staff and volunteers. Your club or organisation may also have someone in a named child protection role with a specific responsibility for safeguarding – perhaps a designated safeguarding lead or welfare officer. However it's important that everyone understands your organisation's safeguarding policies and procedures, knows how to recognise concerns and what steps they must take.

How do I learn more about safeguarding and child protection in sport?

Our introductory course Child protection in sport and physical activity will help you understand your role and responsibilities in protecting the children and young people you work with:

  • 3-hour, CPD-certified course
  • covers the key legislation and guidance in all four UK nations
  • complete at your own pace, anytime and anywhere
  • includes film scenarios, reflective tasks, interactive quizzes and expert advice
  • provides further information and downloadable resources to help you keep children safe.

And our Safer sports events training course covers how to plan sports events – including venues, activity providers, transport, staffing, first aid, inclusivity, partner organisations and evaluating other safeguarding risks.

The CPSU, part of the NSPCC, has lots more information, tools and resources to help clubs and organisations create a safe and inclusive environment, protect children and young people and make sure they thrive in sport. This includes guidance about putting safeguards in place, involving children and young people, and engaging with parents.