Child Abuse in Sports
One of our primary focus areas at the Sport & Rights Alliance is child athlete protection. Through the research and advocacy of SRA partners, we work to end the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of child athletes and ensure their rights are respected and protected throughout global sport.
In 2021, the World Players Association, a core partner of the Sport & Rights Alliance, published the 2021 CARE Report (Census of Athlete Rights Experiences) in collaboration with Loughborough University. This project is the first global study to look at elite athletes’ experiences to understand whether and how their rights are protected as children in sport.
During the months of December 2019 – June 2020 an online questionnaire was shared with both currently active as well as former professional athletes affiliated with World Players in order to understand their childhood experiences in organized sport. The survey was made available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Japanese.
The questionnaire asked participants about their childhood experiences of the full range of rights as well as their current well-being. A total sample of 297 athletes completed the questionnaire and 13 in-depth individual interviews were conducted. In order to participate, respondents had to be a current or former professional athlete over the age of 18.
We have coordinated and supported multiple campaigns to protect child athletes and hold perpetrators accountable in multiple sports and countries. Learn more below.
SAFE to Talk
In 2021, World Players Association and The Army of Survivors led an awareness campaign to educate players on their rights and how to speak up safely. This video builds on the research in the 2021 CARE Report and the Ready to Respond Guide, which equips player associations to support athletes who want to disclose abuse or harassment.
In 2021, Human Rights Watch reported a pattern of sexual abuse and harassment on on Mali’s under-18 national women’s basketball team, perpetrated by head coach Amadou Bamba, going as far back as 2016. The Sport & Rights Alliance helped coordinate a campaign to demand adequate support and protection for survivors and accountability from FIBA.
In May 2020, Human Rights Watch reported on widespread sexual coercion and abuse of young Haitian football players by federation president Yves Jean-Bart. We supported a campaign to ask FIFA to suspend Jean-Bart and other officials and conduct a survivor-centred and trauma-informed investigation. In November, Jean-Bart received a lifetime ban from FIFA.
Twenty members of the Afghan women’s national football team came forward with allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation by the federation’s president and other officials. In 2018, we coordinated a public campaign resulting in the lifetime ban FIFA banned the president for life from all football-related activity. Our work on this case has also triggered change in FIFA’s policies on witness protection and survivor-centred investigations.
If you or someone you know has experienced abuse in sport, Project CARE has compiled a list of local resources and service providers from around the world whom you can contact for support. If you are a coach, parent, or player association, you may also be interested in the Ready to Respond Handbook, which provides practical guidance for supporting players who have experienced abuse and trauma.