Tackling Abuse in Sport the Right Way: New Guidance on Establishing Effective Safe Sport Entities

To move forward, it is important that we learn from mistakes in the past. For too long we have seen processes and systems built to protect sport and its reputation. We need to finally start to focus on those most affected by the current failures: the athletes and survivors. Andrea Florence, Director of the Sport & Rights Alliance

World Players Association, The Army of Survivors and the Sport & Rights Alliance jointly release expert guidelines to best deliver justice and support for survivors of abuse in sport.

[Nyon, 01 December 2022] The World Players Association today launched Establishing Effective Safe Sport Entities”, a concise guide on the key principles and essential functions of entities established to address and remedy the scourge of abuse in sport. Developed together with The Army of Survivors and the Sport & Rights Alliance, the guide provides sports bodies, governments, player associations, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders with a clear benchmark to ensure safe sport entities are able to prevent, investigate and respond to abuse in a manner that protects the safety, humanity, dignity and voice of impacted athletes.

Recent and continuing revelations of endemic, appalling and systemic abuse of athletes, often fostered by enabling cultures of sporting norms, nepotism, cover-up, and retaliation, have triggered a rush to establish safe sport initiatives. While potentially an important step , these processes commonly have significant shortcomings in purpose, culture, capacity, expertise, and transparency – often exacerbating harm for victims and survivors. Athletes turning to such entities report a lack of support and safety, an absence of trauma-informed approaches, ineffective reporting procedures, a legalistic and adversarial system of dispute resolution, and gaps when it comes to meaningful reparation and remedy.

Athlete trust – essential to the success of any safe sport initiative – has too often been destroyed by being forced into a system principally designed to protect the reputation of the sports body itself as opposed to identifying the justice needs of victims and systemic causal factors. Some sports bodies and governments have made the dangerous assumption that the already problematic sports integrity framework – designed around challenges such as anti-doping and match-fixing – is capable of addressing the particular challenge of abuse and the sporting environments which enable it.

Based on these experiences and coupled with the knowledge of experts in the field of trauma and abuse, the guide articulates six key principles that need to be embedded in the establishment and operations of safe sport entities to ensure that initiatives can deliver justice and support for survivors:

  1. Human Rights-Based
  2. Survivor-Centred
  3. Independency & Accountability
  4. Safety & Accessibility
  5. Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
  6. Effective Remedy

In addition, the guide identifies five essential functions that such entities need to fulfil in order to respond to the needs of survivors and drive the necessary systemic change to achieve the stated safe sport purpose:

  1. Support
  2. Reporting
  3. Investigation
  4. Remedy
  5. Prevention

The released guidance comes at a critical point in time, as FIFA is looking at establishing an structure on a global and multisport level, and other national-level initiatives are underway in several countries under the guidance of national governments.

World Players Executive Director Brendan Schwab said:

“Abuse in sport is continuing to destroy the lives of thousands of players around the world. We cannot wait for the system to come up with a solution, as the system is part of the problem. There is an urgent need to establish new and carefully designed structures that can deal with these cases and meet the individual, collective and systemic justice needs of victims, survivors and athletes generally. This guide provides clear criteria to ensure that those initiatives can be effective, safe, trauma-informed, survivor-centred, and deliver the systemic change needed.”

The Army of Survivors Executive Director Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran said:

“While we agree that current safeguarding and reporting systems need to be revisited in order to prioritize athlete safety and wellbeing, our hope is that new entities being created are taking the right measures into account. By utilizing this guide, organizations have principles and key functions that will aid them in creating transparent and survivor-centered processes.”

Sport & Rights Alliance Director Andrea Florence said:

“To move forward, it is important that we learn from mistakes in the past. For too long we have seen processes and systems built to protect sport and its reputation. We need to finally start to focus on those most affected by the current failures: the athletes and survivors. For the effectiveness of any safe sport institution, it is absolutely critical to be based on meaningful, nonexploitative, safe and trauma-informed consultation with survivors.”

For more information, please contact

Rachel Causey, Communications Coordinator, World Players Association, Tel: +1 318 450 9686 or Email: rachel@sportandrightsalliance.org

The World Players Association, part of UNI Global Union, is the exclusive global voice of organised players and athletes across professional sport. It brings together 85,000 players through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries. Its role is to ensure that the voice of organised players is heard at the highest levels in the decision-making of international sport.

The Army of Survivors (TAOS), founded and led by a group of athlete survivors of sexual assault, is committed to ending sexual assault against athletes by ensuring perpetrators and enablers are held accountable, creating transparency in reporting, and advocating for cultural change to better protect athletes. Our mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual violence against athletes at all levels through our three pillars of trauma-informed and athlete-centered advocacy, education and resource development specific to athletes’ experiences.

The Sport & Rights Alliance is an unprecedented global coalition of leading NGOs and trade unions working together to embed human rights and anti-corruption across world sport. Founded in early 2015, the Sport & Rights Alliance exists to promote the rights and well-being of those most affected by the negative impacts of sport. We use our collective influence to pressure global sports bodies to ensure their decision-making and operations respect international standards for human rights, labour rights, and anti-corruption, in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.