“I Know People Think I’m a Complete Pain in the Neck”: An Examination of the Introduction of Child Protection and “Safeguarding” in English Sport from the Perspective of National Governing Body Safeguarding Lead Officers
…provide a framework for all those involved in sport to help them create a safe sporting environment for children and young people and protect them from harm.(, p. 1)
2. Social Science and the Study of Child Protection in Sport
… is to see it as a structured space of forces and struggles into which individuals along with their habitus-specific dispositions enter … the outcome of this encounter … is the product of the interaction between them.
... when individuals act, they always do so in specific social contexts or settings. Hence particular practices or perceptions should be seen, not as the product of the habitus as such, but as the product of the relation between the habitus, on the one hand, and the specific social contexts or “fields” within which individuals act, on the other.(, p. 14)
Symbolic capital is any property (any form of capital whether physical, economic, cultural or social) when it is perceived by social agents endowed with categories of perception which cause them to know it and recognize it, to give it value.(, p. 47)
… those within and outside sport need to recognize that the significant changes in culture and practice that are required will take both time and resources. There are still some within sport who are resistant to change: those involved in promoting this work need to adopt an approach that will ensure change occurs at an appropriate pace.(, p. 141)
… the respondent an absolutely exceptional situation for communication, freed from the usual constraints (particularly of time) that weigh on most everyday interchanges, and opening up alternatives which prompt or authorize the articulation of worries, needs or wishes discovered through this very articulation, the researcher helps create the conditions for an extra-ordinary discourse, which might never have been spoken, but which was already there, merely awaiting the conditions for its actualization.(, p. 614)
4.1. Priorities, Resources and Responsibilities
SLO5: …the important thing to me really is where my line manager fits in terms of the whole organization, not necessarily where I fit. My line manager now is Head of [area] and is from the senior management team and that’s the most important thing … that means that I can influence at senior management level.
SLO2: The safeguarding team have recently been moved from [area] [to] Legal and Governance … I think this is better for safeguarding … I think we have definitely got a higher profile there, and I think that they are a bit more accepting of us, now we are in Legal and Governance.
SLO4: The larger NGBs … they’ve got money to throw at it. They normally have a permanent Lead Officer in place who has got maybe half a dozen staff around the regions, and they in turn have got one or two staff within the region. They’ve got a structure. Not everybody’s as fortunate, unfortunately. … the bigger NGBs, they’ve got money to throw at child protection and we don’t. It’s as simple as that. We can only do what we can do.
SLO3: There’s no specific funding for safeguarding within the planning process. There will be a budget allocated to my area, I’m a budget holder, but there isn’t … it’s not allocated from any of the funding bodies specifically for safeguarding. So I would put a plan together to say ‘this is how much we would need to deliver the safeguarding functions’ and I then would kind of fight it out with everybody else.
SLO7: … it concerns me that there is no money ring-fenced with the funding from Sport England. You know we get this funding but none of it is ring-fenced in regards to safeguarding … and I know there are other sports that have said this as well. If governing body’s boards were advised that they have got to give X amount to safeguarding, they would probably take more notice of it.
SLO4: The main part of my role is club development, which includes club accreditation, which obviously includes child protection … child protection sits with those two areas. So, it might probably be around 20% of my role. … Really it’s a bolt-on part of my job rather than a fundamental part.
SLO6: If you asked me now [to take on the LO role] I would say no … but that’s not to say I don’t want to do the role because of what it involves, it’s because it doesn’t really fit in with my [additional role] now. … In an ideal world I would have moved that lead officer role onto someone else, but that hasn’t been able to happen yet.
4.2. Organizational Resistance/Inertia
SLO2: ... when I first joined there was a huge sort of push away from it … “this is ridiculous! We have managed all our lives without this, we don’t need this! … this is all just political correctness gone mad!”
SLO3: I don’t think they understood it. I don’t think it was seen as being particularly important. The difficulty was, I think in early days there was this feeling of “this doesn’t happen in our sport.” I think there was definitely a feeling of “this doesn’t happen enough [to justify changes].”
SLO7: I am advised that safeguarding is on the board meetings [but] I am yet to see it on any of the minutes. … my head of department is representative of safeguarding on the board. Unfortunately, I have never had him approach me and ask me for any data or details or anything about cases to feed back into the board, never, so it is quite disappointing.
SLO3: I don’t think they [senior management] really knew what to do with it. To me there wasn’t really a willingness to … I needed their weight to say to the organization “this is important, you need to do it”. … it was very isolating because anything that needed doing, I had to do and there was absolutely no team work involved … I think you have to be extremely, extremely determined and thick-skinned to be able to do it, and driven to do the job. I don’t think you can do this without the organization buying in, because it’s not a one-person job. If it’s genuinely going to work within the organization, it’s got to be owned and driven by more than one person ... ultimately you need the executive team to do it because they are the decision makers–ultimately they drive the message. If they say it’s important, then the organization sees it as important.
SLO7: … sometimes you just feel “are you going to listen or what? Would you just like me to go away?” Cos that is the impression you get sometimes. [I] can never get in front of the CEO to put things forward, they just don’t want to know—“I pay you to do the job, just do it”.
SLO5: I think higher up the organization, they still kind of leave it up to the safeguarding department. There’s still that whole, not understanding that everyone plays a part ... Like the [CPSU] safeguarding conference, I think there were very few CEOs there. I obviously started to go and they [NGB CEOs] said, “I think it’s more for you.” I said, “it is, but it’ll be so good if you’re there” but it was never going to happen.
SLO2: ... over the years I think people have recognized that we need to do something about it and they have become more accepting of it … We still have to fight a little bit but nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
SLO6: …whereas initially it was, “umm, why are we doing this? Why is this on the agenda?” to an understanding now of it—to them it presents a risk to the organization, you know, and umm, equally the importance of it. I think no one can ever deny the importance of child protection, it’s just how much–for them it might get in the way of doing other business ... because it’s always “not in my back yard”. ... I think them understanding the number of cases we are dealing with, which I think has shocked them [management], that you know it is this sort like, “it doesn’t happen, well, OK it does”, and you know, people didn’t used to wear seatbelts but now they do and they just accept it, and it’s just that change of attitude … and eventually it’s part of what we do. … the board have now got an increased interest in it and we report to them every meeting on where we are with it.
SLO5: We have to be able to drive it and challenge a lot. And also stand by your guns. And also do it for the right reasons. Sometimes I had to resort to the whole, “you know what, if we don’t do this, as a governing body, we won’t get more take-off funding.” It annoys me that you have to do it that way because my first selling message would always be you do it for the right reasons, because 28% of our memberships are juniors so we need to treat them in a responsible and appropriate manner … it frustrates me.
4.3. A Complex and Specialist Role
SLO3: ... as a lead officer with a non-statutory background, I found that extremely challenging. ... I still think dealing with cases within governing bodies … is quite difficult because they’re all different and they’ll all bring up different things … it’s a very specialist area because it’s verging on statutory and you have to kind of work out how you fit with statutory, how your organization deals with that. … the complexity of dealing with the statutory sector and dealing with individuals and their families and everything else … that was a massive, massive learning curve.
SLO9: I feel that, you know after four years I am pretty much to grips with the whole thing except when, when suddenly I get the legislation in front of me and I’m like “ooh, actually no that doesn’t say what we have always thought it was saying for the last four years”.
SLO5: I have … contact with a child protection consultant who we pay … and originally when I first started, if we had a case I would say, “can you ring the local authority and get the information?” or “can you ring the police?”, and he would say, “no actually, you can—these are the pertinent questions”, and I’d only been to actually one, as we call it, inter-agency meeting and I admit I was terrified, because I was thinking I hope they don’t think that I’m a massive expert. [emphasis added].
SLO3: … For me [I’ve learned the job] through fairly awful experience I have to say. I hope the sector has learnt to support people better, but I’m not sure that is the case. … it’s that we learn from the experience that some lead officers have had, in terms of the isolation of the role, because I think that role can be very isolating … we need to make sure that it is more than just one person’s responsibility … it needs specialist support, not everybody can deal with that stuff. And actually I think people shouldn’t be asked to deal with that stuff without having those support functions in place. It’s a huge responsibility dealing with cases. I think a lot of early lead officers went through that and a lot of them fell by the way side as a result ... It’s too much without the right support.
SLO2: ... I will admit to you that 3, 4, or 5 years ago I would say that no, I didn’t have the personal support that I needed, and that was when we did have cases that weren’t very nice, and I did struggle with that, you know, going home and thinking about what had actually taken place. And also I didn’t have anybody to bounce ideas off or even say “look this is really upsetting, read this”. I had to keep it all within myself.
SLO3: I think that’s the opportunity to meet with other people doing the same roles and I think lead officers need to meet with other lead officers because it’s a kind of quite unique position and I think talking to other people who are having the same experiences is really important because I think that helps the isolation. And I think just people knowing that people understand what you’re doing and your challenges is quite reassuring sometimes.
SLO3: I did [attend CPSU training for SLOs] but that in no way prepares you for the ins and outs of case management. ... Time to Listen is good training but it’s not until you get into cases and how your organization deals with it that you kind of really get into the nitty-gritty of what dealing with cases is all about.
4.4. Constructions of Safeguarding and Child Protection in Sport
SLO8: Everything has to do with risk. Safeguarding is risk. When you write the child protection policies and guidelines, it’s about cutting down the risk. ... you always get a lot … “they’re going to sue us.” If you’ve not got your guidelines down, you’re wide open.
SLO9: …the sort of relationship with our legal team hasn’t always been perhaps the easiest. It’s, you know, they are very aware that it is a big, high-risk area.
SLO5: I think people are fearful of child protection, so yeah there were reluctant people leading on the Standards Framework [new national initiative] ... I remember, it must have taken virtually a day to do a press release about, I think it was CRB checks … there was some news story and I remember it took them all day to get the wording [of the press release] right, and I was thinking this is just because this person–no disrespect because they knew it—they were so worried about getting the wording right … it could have been done in minutes.
SLO3: I think there’s still a little bit of “you deal with the scary stuff and the horrible side of things” rather than being seen as a positive enhancement. I’d like to get to that stage where it’s seen as a positive rather than just a person that sorts out the horrible stuff. I think the difficulty in safeguarding is quite often what you’re trying to do is presented as being an issue. So it’s kind of not seen as being important because it’s preventative. You’re doing things so that things don’t go wrong—you know you’re getting consent forms in place and making sure that people have been CRB checked—and they’re kind of not seen as being … it’s quite difficult to explain that. People don’t understand the value in planning and preparation that a lot of safeguarding is.
SLO5: ... I’ve always said to people, you know, “safeguarding, child protection, it’s not just about a child that may be in distress, it’s a much broader thing”. I’ve done a lot with the organization as a whole in terms of, you know, the wider perspective, like how long the children are playing in tournaments and at what age should children be playing with adults.
Youngsters in Britain face a growing danger of being sexually abused by their sports coaches ... this special report … asks how we can best protect children from the menace that may lurk at the poolside and in the changing rooms.(, emphasis added)
SLO1: I would say… [sigh] more compliance at the top level, that’s how they see it. “Right, well, safeguarding, it’s probably a lot of money. Have we got to do it?” “Yes, we have to do it, this is why we have to do it.” “Right, well, we want to do it well and it fits in with our image, yeah, so that’s fine, we can deal with that because it fits in.” So the motives from the top are more compliance rather than belief, I would say.
SLO: “That’s all happy-clappy stuff that we can publicize everywhere–look how good and wonderful we are”. Well, I never get to see my CEO or Chair because they’re not interested. If I did it wrong, or there was a big case, that’d be different. They’d want to see me then. But for [equal opportunities] it’s like … “we’ve got another photo opportunity here.”
SLO5: I really wanted to do this … I believe in it so much and I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
SLO3: I know people think I’m a complete pain in the neck. I’m the one who’s, “hang on a minute, have we thought about the whatever” and that’s the–you know, I would love to get to a stage where I’m not seen as the one that’s the pain in the neck. … I really think the work’s important. I really genuinely believe. I don’t think I’d still be here if I didn’t genuinely believe.
SLO5: We have to be able to drive it, and challenge a lot. And also stand by your guns … I just wanted to be able to sort of change hearts and minds … it’s cultural stuff, it’s a slow burner … sowing the seeds and then coming back and trying to change people along a bit more.
SLO3: [Senior management said] “we’re seen as being a good governing body and you’re now suggesting we’re not!” And I was sort of like, “I’m just saying that there’s more to it than having a policy.”
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Hartill, M.; Lang, M. “I Know People Think I’m a Complete Pain in the Neck”: An Examination of the Introduction of Child Protection and “Safeguarding” in English Sport from the Perspective of National Governing Body Safeguarding Lead Officers. Soc. Sci. 2014, 3, 606-627. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci3040606
Hartill M, Lang M. “I Know People Think I’m a Complete Pain in the Neck”: An Examination of the Introduction of Child Protection and “Safeguarding” in English Sport from the Perspective of National Governing Body Safeguarding Lead Officers. Social Sciences. 2014; 3(4):606-627. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci3040606Chicago/Turabian Style
Hartill, Mike, and Melanie Lang. 2014. "“I Know People Think I’m a Complete Pain in the Neck”: An Examination of the Introduction of Child Protection and “Safeguarding” in English Sport from the Perspective of National Governing Body Safeguarding Lead Officers" Social Sciences 3, no. 4: 606-627. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci3040606