Abuse in Sport: An Academic Forum

Dr Melanie Lang

The Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS) launched its own seminar series on 10th November with the support of the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR). The special 2-hour online event was opened by Professor Jo Crotty, Director of ISR, and Dr Melanie Lang, CPSS assistant director and convenor of the seminar series.

The series launch featured talks from Dr Natalie Barker-Ruchti, Associate Professor of Sport Management and Sport Coaching from Öbrero University in Sweden, and Professor Leanne Norman, Professor of Sport and Socio-cultural Studies and Director of the Research Centre for Social Justice in Sport and Society at Leeds Beckett University.

The event was attended by more than 50 delegates from the UK, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and the US. Delegates included safeguarding professionals from the statutory, voluntary and private sectors, such as the police and criminal justice service, Premier League football clubs, and national and international children’s charities.

The event’s popularity is evidence of the prominence of safeguarding and welfare issues in sport, following a series of damaging, high-profile allegations of athletes being abused and harassed by coaches in the UK and beyond.

Dr Barker-Ruchti explored how a process of gendering shapes how individuals experience themselves and their lives and illustrated how this process can lead to abusive practices in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. Dr Barker-Ruchti’s work is especially timely given the soon-to-be-released Whyte review, an independent review into allegations about mistreatment within British Gymnastics.

Meanwhile, Professor Norman spoke about how a recent project into gender equity within elite-level sports coaching in athletics revealed serious issues of sexual discrimination, harassment, and abuse of female coaches and athletes. Professor Norman went on to highlight what sport can do to develop a more gender-balanced coaching workforce and promote the inclusion of different groups of women within the profession while eradiating abuse.

The seminar series aims to facilitate research networking, knowledge exchange, and continuing professional development in a friendly, relaxed environment and is free and open to all. The next seminar takes place online on Wednesday 15th December and will feature a talk from athlete activist, former elite gymnast and leading campaigner for change within gymnastics, Claire Heafford. Details and booking available here.

To learn more about CPSS, its members and their work in safeguarding and welfare in sport, see here.

To watch the recording of the inaugural research seminar, click here.

Dr Melanie Lang is an ISR Fellow, assistant director Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport and reader in child protection in sport in the Department of Social Sciences at Edge Hill University.

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