UNICEF has long recognized that there is great value in children’s sport and play, and has been a consistent proponent of these activities in its international development and child protection work. Health, educational achievement and social benefits are just some of the many desirable outcomes associated with organized physical activity. In line with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF has also been a strong advocate of children’s right to leisure and play and to have their voices heard in the planning and delivery of the sport activities in which they are involved. During recent years, however, it has become evident that sport is not always a safe space for children, and that the same types of violence and abuse sometimes found in families and communities can also occur in sport and play programmes. Child athletes are rarely consulted about their sporting experiences, and awareness of and education on child protection issues among sport teachers, coaches and other stakeholders is too often lacking. Overall, appropriate structures and policies need to be developed for preventing, reporting and responding appropriately to violence in children’s sport.
In recognition of this, the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre commissioned a review of the available empirical research and policy initiatives on this subject. The research resulted in a wealth of information, now published in this report. ‘Protecting Children from Violence in Sport: A review with a focus on industrialized countries’ defines the many aspects of the issue, provides examples of both good and poor practice, and makes suggestions for sport organizations to assist them in their violence prevention work. In particular, the study recommends improvements in:
- Data collection and knowledge generation about violence to children in sport
- Development of structures and systems for eliminating and preventing violence to children in sport
- Education, awareness-raising and training on this subject
- Promotion of ethical guidelines and codes of conduct as part of the prevention system.
It is anticipated that by addressing these gaps, significant improvements will be realized for the promotion and protection of the rights of children in sport.