Transnational partner meeting 3: Intervention update meeting (April 2022

At the end of March ’22, all Safe Sport Allies partners gathered in Bilbao (Spain) for the third international project meeting. Although the project started more than a year ago and a lot of work was already being done (see previous posts), this was the very first time that this international group could physically meet each other. During one and a half day, several meetings were held with the aim of updating all partners on the project progress, and to exchange input and feedback on the content of the Safe Sport Allies interventions.  

In small groups, the partners studied and discussed each part of the project in detail. They discussed the first findings of the pilot study and, where necessary, proposed adjustments. Among other things, the scripts for the workshops for the athletes and coaches were discussed, as well as the scripts for the webinars for club managers and sport parents. In addition, an initial brainstorm was organised regarding the content and logistics of the future Safe Sport Allies national workshops, which will take place in each of the participating countries in 2023. Each national project leader will organize this workshop according to the target audience and specific context. 

Overall, this project meeting consisted of busy, but exciting days. Between the meetings we also had the opportunity to visit the beautiful stadium and museum of Athletic Club Bilbao. José Ignacio Alonso Romero, safeguarding officer of Athletic Club, also presented the club’s ATERPE program through which they support young athletes from the club and dozens of other clubs in the region. 

Once back home, all Safe Sport Allies partners will start working with the input and feedback, and all parts of the intervention will be finalized and prepared for the actual field work in  sports clubs in Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands. There is still a lot of work to be done, but everyone is excited to move forward. Fortunately, in the meantime the sports clubs are running at full speed and showing interest and enthusiasm to participate in the Safe Sport Allies project. 

Is your club also interested or do you know a club that would be interested in our free workshops for athletes, coaches, parents and club managers? Surf to our registration form, leave your details and we will contact you!


The Safe Sport Allies team 

Launch of Work Package 3 ‘Intervention and Protocol Design’ (Dec 2021)

During the last couple of months we shifted to a next phase in the Safe Sport Allies project. In a previous step we completed the knowledge documents (factsheet with country comparison, literature review and factsheet with survivors’ suggestions) regarding bystander programs in and outside sport. The obtained knowledge enabled and guided us to start developing the intervention script and materials, and the measurement toolkit which will be used to investigate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Currently, we are finalizing all the scripts, materials, and measurements. Our bystander intervention focuses on four actors (who all can be seen as bystanders) from local sport clubs in Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands: (1) young athletes (12-14 year old), (2) coaches, (3) the club management, and (4) parents of young athletes. When a sport club is participating in the study, each of these actors will be provided with a tailor-made training. For example, young athletes can participate in a face to face training (60 to 90 minutes), whereas coaches can participate in a face to face training (or online if required because of the pandemic; +- 135 minutes) and 3 online boostersessions. The complete intervention is approved by the Societal and Social Ethics Committee of the University of Leuven.

In the upcoming phase, we will be piloting the intervention for young athletes and coaches. This will allow us to make, if needed, necessary changes to the final intervention (i.e. scripts, materials, measurements) of these two actors. We aim to start with the actual field work (Work Package 4) from February 2022 onwards.

Results of Work Package 2 ‘Knowledge Development’

The compelling character of the testimonials by people affects by sexual, psychological, and physical violence in youth sport, as well as the available prevalence estimates have urged European policy makers and sport organisations at local, national, and international level to take action. While at first only some international and national sport organisations took the lead, by now, many more organisations in Europe have initiated child protection and safeguarding policies. Slowly, the world of sport is waking up on the issue, raising the taboo and willing to challenge a sporting culture that is conducive for violence and exploitation of children.

The Safe Sport Allies project aims to combat psychological, physical, and sexual violence, and proactively safeguard children in sport, through the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of a bystander intervention that will allow athletes, parents, coaches, and managers to adequately react to child abuse in sport. The bystander intervention will increase awareness, knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and capacity of relevant actors in youth sport clubs to challenge harmful social norms and behaviours as well as promoting positive, healthy ones. By longitudinally testing the effectiveness on behaviour change of these actors, this project also delivers a sound methodology to test interventions aiming at safeguarding children in sport organisations.

The first step of the Safe Sport Allies project was to develop a knowledge document regarding bystander programs in and outside sport (including practices from all partner countries). In doing so, every partner in the project has contributed by doing a mapping study on national safeguarding initiatives in and outside sport, with specific attention for bystander interventions. Furthermore, the Mulier Institute conducted a literature review about factors that foster bystander intervention programmes. In addition, interviews, focus groups and group conversations with bystanders and survivors of abuse in sports have enriched our understanding of how children in sport organizations can best be safeguarded. The three outputs, which together form the knowledge document (factsheet with country comparison, literature review and factsheet with survivors’ suggestions), are presented in the ‘publication section’ of this website.

11th of June – First Safe Sport Allies Multiplier Event

On the 11th of June we organized the first multiplier event of the Safe Sport Allies Project. We are grateful for the positive responses and insights of all fifteen multiplier partners on the project.

We will incorporate all the insights, precautions, tips and tricks we gained during the event.

Thanks again to all multiplier partners for your participation! We are looking forward to June 2021 to meet you all in Antwerp for the 2nd Multiplier Event.

10th of June – Transnational Partner Meeting

Looking at these pictures, you wouldn’t say we’re a violence prevention group, but we are! Second #SafeSportAllies partner meeting. Wrapping up the ‘knowledge development phase’ and ready to prepare our bystander intervention in local sport clubs.

Kick-Off meeting

Bit different than planned, but even online, the positive vibes were going strong! Thanks to all our partners for kicking off our #SafeSportAllies project today.

Project description

Safeguarding children from violence and abuse in local sport clubs

Too many children experience sexual, psychological or physical violence during their participation in organized sport. Following painful disclosures and prevalence studies that can no longer be overlooked, child protection and safeguarding practices are being developed and implemented throughout European sport. However, to date, these initiatives lack solid evidence of impact. Monitoring and evaluation data are barely existing, which compromises an evaluation of their effectiveness. Moreover, grassroots sport clubs seldom have designated staff to adequately implement the required procedures and practices.

One of the most devastating factors in too many stories of violence against young athletes is the phenomenon of bystanding. Even though child abuse is in most cases a repeating event, signs of abuse are still often overlooked, or bystanders decide not to act upon them. Passive bystanding contributes to the continuation of children’s suffering and protects the abuser. In order to stimulate prosocial bystanding, it is crucial to educate sports club stakeholders on when and how to intervene in case of a report, disclosure, or concern.

In this European collaborative partnership, we aim to take an evidence-based approach in setting up, implementing, and evaluating bystander interventions. A multidisciplinary group of sport administrators, survivors, safeguarding practitioners and researchers will develop an educational program for athletes, coaches and parents, and a policy roadmap for club managers. In order to test the effectiveness, a longitudinal evaluation study with an intervention and control group will be conducted in two countries.

This project will provide useful insights in developing, implementing, and evaluating an intervention program to stimulate prosocial bystander behavior and safeguard children in grassroots sport clubs. By organizing national workshops and a European webinar, the educational materials will be disseminated into the wider EU sport community.