From October 2020 to March 2021, UEFA and Terre des hommes ran three in-depth child safeguarding workshops for national football associations. A total of 54 national associations enrolled specialists, child safeguarding focal points, in the workshops to improve their knowledge and plan activities to advance child safeguarding in their countries.
This in-depth training is part of a framework developed by UEFA in partnership with Terre des hommes and in consultation with national football associations, to review or implement a range of measures to protect and safeguard children from abuse or harm and deal effectively with any concerns that may arise.
The framework stipulates that each national association must appoint a child safeguarding focal point (CSFP). Then UEFA and Tdh provide guidance, support, and training for these specialists, who act as the main contact, provide advice and help to implement the child safeguarding policy, a role that can include responding to specific and sensitive cases and concerns.
“Football is played by millions of children. It is their right to enjoy safe playing environments, and our duty to ensure that football offers safe spaces for children and teenagers,” said Michele Uva, Football and Social Responsibility Director at UEFA. “As the governing body of European football, UEFA helps its members to protect young players and reduce the risk of abuse or harm. UEFA takes its responsibility seriously, providing a quality framework to support the national associations in their safeguarding policies and incentivise them to appoint child safeguarding focal points.”
During the six-day workshop, participants learned more about the role of a CSFP, key preventative actions, how to deal with risks and respond to concerns, how to manage disclosures and reports, how to involve children in safeguarding efforts, and how to assess safeguarding practices and measure progress. CSFP from 54 national associations attended and were able to share experiences, existing good practices, and some of the challenges they face.
“Managing cases to ensure children’s safety and well-being is a huge responsibility. So, it was important for the workshops to provide concrete, useful approaches, along with practical exercises that we can apply in real life situations,” said Nina Darsadze, a child and youth psychologist acting as CSFP for the Georgian Football Federation. “We also had truly inspiring discussions and the opportunity to exchange our views on how to keep children safe in football.”
Laura Mcginn, the women’s football manager at the Gibraltar Football Association, was appointed child safeguarding focal point: “The course gave me a greater understanding of the role, so I now feel more confident about dealing with any safeguarding issues and know how to put procedures in place to prevent these situations from occurring.”
“Even though our federation has an established safeguarding action plan, I will now revise certain sections in the light of the contribution from UEFA and Tdh experts,” said Matthieu Robert, the manager of the civic and social campaigns project and CSFP at the French Football Federation. “I will share the new approach and tools that UEFA made available with our ethics and sport committee. We learnt a lot from these workshops; now it is up to us, in our social responsibility role, to bring these messages and our actions to the clubs. They are at the heart of our commitment.”
The trained CSFP will work with their national associations to introduce or improve both preventative and responsive child safeguarding procedures. “We hope that our in-depth training will enabled the focal points to carry out their critical role confidently and appropriately in their association. We will also organise other learning opportunities, such as webinars, to help national associations in their safeguarding journey,” said Fanny Bellier, project manager for child safeguarding in sport at Terre des hommes.
Additionally, UEFA and Tdh are providing individual support for 11 national football associations that want to reinforce their safeguards. This pilot approach will contextualise the UEFA child safeguarding toolkit and help the national associations in question to develop the policies and procedures they specifically need.
Prior to roll-out, UEFA worked with Tdh to develop its child safeguarding policy. Together with UEFA’s overall child safeguarding framework, it underlines UEFA’s commitment to developing the game while ensuring that football is always a safe, positive, and enjoyable experience for children and teenagers.
A broader child safeguarding toolkit has also been developed for UEFA member associations, along with four interactive e-courses for a variety of audiences. These can be found on the UEFA-safeguarding.eu platform, together with other resources for child safeguarding in football.