Recommendations on the protection of young athletes and safeguarding children's rights in sport [European Union]

Recommendations on the protection of young athletes and safeguarding children's rights in sport

An expert group (XG) on Good Governance was set up in 2015 to produce recommendations on this key topic. The XG held its first meeting on 16 October 20214 and began its work on the protection of minors deliverable on 23 February 2016, followed by further discussions on 12 May and 14 July.

Positive effects of sport for children are well known1 and already underlined at international, EU and national level. Through sport children can learn important values as tolerance or fair-play. They can also develop motor skills2 and a healthy way of life3. All forms of sport can contribute to their social inclusion, education and personal or social development4. Because of these positive effects among others, sport is recognised by Member States and EU as an important policy priority. And for the vast majority of children, sport is therefore a positive experience.

But for other children, the experience may be affected by negative experiences. Like in any other arenas involving a close personal relationship and/or authority relationship toward children, a sporting environment may also sometimes expose minors to particular risks. Studies and high-profile cases showed that minors can be subject to various forms of violence in sport that can lead to lifelong consequences on their emotional, physical and psychological health, personal development, social and family life, and subsequently impact their participation in sport and life.

Generally recognized as a vulnerable population, minors need special consideration and protection. However, the sport sector is an example (among others) where safeguarding minor's rights can be said to have been given insufficient attention in the past. Many structures or entities in the EU “working” close to minors have realized they have a particular responsibility towards protecting minors against any form of violence and to keep paying attention on this concern, but there is still much to be done.

Minors have to be protected against any form of “violence” that may be caused in the course of sport activities, regardless of the sports level (grassroots or high-level); minors have the right to practice sports activities in a safe environment.

The aim of these recommendations is to propose key actions to Member States, the European Commission and sport organisations/associations to raise awareness on the importance of the protection of minors in sport, and to propose concrete guidelines for action.