Abuse can happen on any occasion or in any place where children and young people are present.  Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm.  It commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and represents an abuse of power or a breach of trust.  Abuse can happen to a child regardless of their age, gender, race or ability.

Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. Children can be abused by adults either male or female, or other children.

 Any allegations or suspicions of abuse, poor practice or bullying need to be responded to and reported in line with the club/organisation’s reporting procedures.

There are four main types of abuse: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Children and young people can also be harmed through poor practice and bullying within a sport setting.

With this in mind Safeguarding in Sport, which encompasses most of the main child/sports related charities in the whole of the UK, is currently in the middle of a review into the safeguarding minimum operating requirements and how each governing body continues to meet these.

To date 19 governing bodies have completed the review process and overall they have found that safeguarding practice remains at a high standard. The Safeguarding in Sport team are heartened to see so many sports who continue to meet the Minimum Operation Requirements (MORs) and for those sports where there is still a little work to be done, they remain committed to supporting and advising.

So many authorities across the country are trying very hard to encourage children of all ages and abilities and no more so than in the Greater Manchester area where Manchester FA are running Safeguarding Children Workshops which involve short three-hour courses providing club coaches, referees and volunteers with an awareness of best practice in safeguarding children in football.

Open to anyone over the age of 18, it is specifically those who are involved in supporting young footballers including those under 18 years playing in adult football. Coaches, medics and referees are encouraged to complete the course, especially those involved with FA Charter Standard clubs where the safeguarding qualification is a mandatory requirement.

Three hours in duration, the course format is classroom-based and will provide you with the knowledge to support participants to create a fun, safe and positive environment and importantly, ensure you are aware how to identify and report any concerns about a child’s welfare.

On completion of the workshops participants receive a Safeguarding Children certificate, valid for three years and is a prerequisite to passing all FA coaching qualifications. Best of all on completion of the course, you will have covered best practice, which is a heads up to spotting symptoms and signs of abuse through behaviours that are cause for concern, attitudes in relation to poor practice and abuse and taking action which explains what to do if abuse is detected and how to respond to a child if they disclose abuse.

This is all very positive stuff but what of the areas that don’t get anywhere near to children who at this very moment in time may be suffering abuse but who have no outlet?

Across the pond there is The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

“Less than 16 million – just three of every 10 kids – play sports on a regular basis. Indeed, the shut out and pushed out, as well as those who opt out, are the norm, denied an experience that has the potential to deliver an array of social, health and other benefits. The barriers to participation are greatest among vulnerable populations, children whose family or personal circumstances – economic, physical or otherwise – limit their access to the youth sport system as currently structured. “

So what about the UK statistics? The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) revealed figures, albeit from around the time of the Olympics with sport high on most agendas, the following:

The latest data show that 81.1 per cent of 5-10 year olds did sport outside of school in the four weeks prior to being interviewed. 94.9 per cent of 11-15 year olds did sport either in or outside school in the 4 weeks prior to being interviewed. These figures have remained stable since 2008/09.

“Overall for all children (5-15 year olds) the rate that had taken part in any sport in the 4 weeks before being interviewed decreased from 90.1 per cent in 2008/09 to 87.5 per cent in 2012/13.”

So the figures are saying all the right things but it’s the link to abuse within sport that sparked this subject so what of future plans to recognise, react and reduce the number of children at risk?

Sarah Carlick, director and founder of The Athena Programme, is in a very strong position to offer safeguarding training within sport due to the complex nature of multi agency training they perform on a daily basis.

Sarah says: “We enjoy working with the variety of organisations across the education arena from primary and secondary schools, to further education establishments such as colleges and universities. As well local and national sport clubs such as Cycle Pendle Sport, Bike Right, Cp Sport, Pendle Leisure Trust and EIHA Blackpool.

But we fully understand that it’s a child’s formative years and their interaction that will form the basis of how they cope as an adult many years after and no more than when taking part in sports.

We know there is a lot of history between child abuse issues and sport and right now we are starting to pave a way for safer practice  and educate and advise those into recognising that actually some practices are completely unacceptable”.