In 2020, the Safe Sport International team of Anne Tiivas, Sandra Kirby, Karen Leach, Colin Harris, Yetsa Tuakli-Wosornu and Daniel Rhind prepared a report for the Oak Foundation on “Advancing Knowledge on Child Emotional and sexual Abuse in Elite Sport”. Though the report belongs to the Oak Foundation, some of the findings can certainly be shared with SSI and beyond.

Given the number of high-profile cases in sport and the heightened risk to child athletes training and competing at elite levels, we did a literature review and consulted broadly with 112 participants who were primary stakeholders in sport, with 9 athletes in 2 focus groups and with 20 experts working in safeguarding but not in sport.

One of our key recommendations was to begin to establish a multi-site, multi-disciplinary international safeguarding ‘WEB’ following a hub and spoke model. Global mapping would be possible in research, best practices, capacity building and of the important developments of athlete involvement. The WEB could unify sharing through learning loops and the coordination across sites would improve evidence and practice. We recommended three core area HUBs to start in the WEB: Direct Athlete Care, Research and Education, and Policy and Practice. At each HUB and SPOKE – the voices of children and adults in sport at all levels would be centred.

Another recommendation was to identify and support discrete research and practice improvements that start with perceptions of participants (in all their diversities) and whose goal it is to empower participants against abuse in sport. This would mean identifying projects and/or conducting research to understand, support and amplify the athletes’ voices.

Our conclusion: We see the wider potential to position sport as a force for good/positive social change – reinforcing the cultural power that can be exerted to end abuse in and through sport. Coalescing a strategic, athlete-centred, hub-and-spoke alliance will enable knowledge sharing, capacity building, and amplification of investments in Safe Sport.

Synthesis by Sandra Kirby, OC OS OLY PhD