Duty of Care in Community Sport

Duty of care across many sectors has been brought into sharp focus in recent years. The Government, in its sports strategy, highlighted the need for change in the sports sector, putting the sector under more scrutiny than ever before. It comes amid a spate of bullying allegations against coaches, mounting concern over the use of medication, and the effects of head injuries in some sports, as well as the child sex abuse scandal in football.

As a first step, DCMS asked Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, to undertake an independent report into the state of duty of care in sport: to consider duty of care in its fullest sense and to question whether welfare and safety really are being given the priority they deserve. As Baroness stated in her introduction to her report (Duty of Care in Sport: April, 2017):

The most important element in sport is the people involved, whether they are taking part, volunteering, coaching or paid employees. The success of sport, in terms of helping people achieve their potential, making the most of existing talent, and attracting new people to sport relies on putting people – their safety, wellbeing and welfare – at the centre of what sport does.

Baroness Grey-Thompson stated that at a time of success for British sport in terms of medals, championships and profile, there are questions about whether the current balance between welfare and winning is right and asked what the sector and nation was prepared to accept.

Her recommendations included:

  • a Sports Ombudsman created by the government that has the power to hold national governing bodies to account for the duty of care they provide
  • an independent benchmark survey to measure duty of care
  • a board member at every national governing body responsible for duty of care
  • exit survey for elite athletes as they leave performance programmes
  • a duty of care charter
  • a government-funded British Athletes Commission
  • mandatory reporting of any suspected abuse

She argued that the drive for success and desire to win should not be at the cost of the individuals involved. Her report signalled that sport bodies needs to take measures as are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that individuals will be safe to participate in an activity to which they are invited or which is permitted. Good practice in the application of a duty of care is paramount and it is apparent that in many areas sport can learn from other industries.

While duty of care issues in elite sports have been discussed at length, and athlete welfare is a priority for the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP, The Sports Think Tank is helping to lead a much more coordinated, purposeful and proactive approach to duty of care issues within grass roots and community sport.

A summary report investigating the level of duty of care understanding in community sport settings

New research from the Sports Think Tank (January 2018) highlights the state of duty of care practices within community sport settings, revealing that the sector is ready to embrace new leadership and support mechanisms to make sport safe in 2018. The research looked at over 100 UK sports organisations, including County Sport Partnerships, National Governing Bodies, Associations, Federations, and Charitable Trusts. It marks the beginning of a coordinated response to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's Duty of Care in Sport report, covering a wide array of issues from first aid to safeguarding, online safety and child sexual exploitation.

The Sport Think Tank also hosted two round table events with sector leaders to discuss the findings of this report and being to agree a way forward and a further round table that debated the culture within elite sports.

Useful Resources

An independent report by Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL into the duty of care sport has towards its participants: Duty of Care in Sport, Independent Report to Government.

A summary report investigating the level of duty of care understanding in community sport settings: Duty of Care.

News: Sports Think Tank calls for immediate action on duty of care in sport recommendations.

News: DCMS launches duty of care review.

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (NSPCC).

EduCare, experts in safeguarding and duty of care.