Sports technology company calls for centralized system of safeguarding in the U.K.

Sport:80, a sports technology company based in the United Kingdom, is calling for a centralized system of safeguarding to be established there. The company relies on their learnings from working with the U.S. Center for SafeSport to establish their argument

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols arrive to testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 15, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols arrive to testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 15, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Sport:80, a sports technology company based in the United Kingdom, has released a white paper calling for improved and centralized safeguarding in the U.K. The company highlights recent abuse scandals in gymnastics, cycling, swimming, and athletics as proof of the inadequacy of the current systems of safeguarding in British sport.

The white paper is based on the company’s learnings from working with the U.S. Center for SafeSport. It explains how the U.S. Center for SafeSport was “integral in establishing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017,” which allowed “the independent body to develop and enforce policies, procedures, and training aimed at preventing abuse and misconduct.”

In an interview with Around the Rings, Jonny Turner, COO at Sport:80, commented, “where the U.S. has been really successful is that they’ve taken things by the scruff of the neck, and they’ve created an organization at the [federal] government level.”

“They’ve created an organization that has the ability to drive the narrative and to say ‘this is what you’re going to have to do.’

FILE PHOTO: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands in court during his sentencing hearing in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S., February 5, 2018.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands in court during his sentencing hearing in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S., February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

Sport:80 claims to have seen the benefits of this centralized system of safeguarding first hand, and have thus turned their attention to their company’s home turf, the United Kingdom.

The white paper argues that the current safeguarding systems employed in the United Kingdom, and more specifically England and Wales, are antiquated, disjointed, and in some cases, unorganized. It calls for a more centralized approach to safeguarding.

CEO of Sport:80, Gary Hargraves, states, “the sport sector has historic structures and hierarchies which sometimes see NGBs [national governing bodies] hamstrung in terms of engaging with the individuals participating in their sport.”

“They rely on volunteers at grassroots organizations to ensure that safeguarding practices are implemented and followed. This lack of one-to-one engagement is something which NGBs can change with an effective approach to safeguarding. It enables them to put rules in place through which they can engage directly with individuals.”

“But this needs to happen in a far more centralized and connected manner. Now, if someone abuses their position of responsibility, NGBs face an uphill task to track down and audit the individual’s activity because they have to reference information which is held in multiple locations.”

In his interview with Around the Rings, Jonny Turner further explained this concept, stating, “what we see in the U.K. is not that people aren’t being trained in safeguarding; it’s not that people aren’t being background checked, but everything sits in what I would call ‘silos,’ whereby there are a number of providers you can go and take the training with.”

“As a NGB there’s no one central repository that you can call on to integrate a solution to understand if all of your individuals that should be taking safeguarding training have taken it.”

He added, “England and Wales are the two countries in particular that we feel haven’t made the progress that they maybe could, or should have made, over the past few years.”

When asked about the difficulty of establishing a centralized safeguarding body in a country that often splits into “home nations” for various sports, Turner replied, “the complexity is certainly in the U.K., that some of our NGBs are British, some of them are completely just based on home nation, but there typically is a British representation usually, that is overlooking or overseeing the elite arm of operations.”

“I guess it would have to be led by those organizations to bring the home nations together to then look at what solutions they’re using.’

Adding, “It’s a more complex thing to kind of pull people together.”

When asked to compare the current system of safeguarding in place in the United States versus the system in place in the United Kingdom, Turner stated, “from what we see, and we are just one small cog in this bigger engine, the U.S. are probably well on their way to getting somewhere to six or seven out of ten.”

“In terms of ten being, doing absolutely everything that you can to make sure that people are fundamentally as safe as possible.”

He added, “I’d say the U.K. are probably closer to a three or a four.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the role his company plays, Turner was asked about the role technology plays in safeguarding. He responded, “without technology it’s almost impossible for NGBs and organizations of their size and scale to keep track of the types of individuals that need to take training, and those records on their profiles.”

He added, “for us, technology is absolutely fundamental. It’s about building a picture within a sport as to who the people are that are engaging with it? Who’s out there participating? Who is involved?”

“You’re never going to solve all the world’s problems, but by introducing automation and by centralizing things to a degree; the theory is that we should have one version of the truth when it comes to individual records.”

CEO of Sport:80, Gary Hargraves, concludes, “the likeliness of safeguarding reform hinges on an independent body being established.”

“A body which regulates every aspect of safeguarding in sport, ensures NGBs follow the same policies and procedures, and delivers audits to maintain high standards.”

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