A Brief Introduction to Safeguarding Adults in Sport

A Brief Introduction to Safeguarding Adults in Sport

  • Emma Gibson
  • 25 August 2022
  • Posted in: Healthcare

The Ann Craft Trust is a national charity dedicated to safeguarding adults at risk. Through pioneering training and practice reviews, and through contributing to world-leading research, we support organisations to safeguard adults at risk and minimise the risk of harm.

In November 2015, Sport England funded The Ann Craft Trust to create a dedicated Safeguarding Adults in Sport post. But The Trust had been working to raise awareness of the issue for many years before this.

In 2008, the Safeguarding Adults in Sport Steering Group was founded. It was initiated by the National Governing Bodies of Sport, who were concerned that adult safeguarding issues were not being addressed within the sector.

The group has always aimed to bring together a number of organisations from across elite and grassroots sport to focus on safeguarding adults. The members included National Governing Bodies, County Sports Partnership Network, Sport England, UK Sport, Sport Resolutions, the Child Protection in Sport Unit, the British Athletes Commission, English Federation of Disability Sport (now called Activity Alliance) and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

The Ann Craft Trust is a founding member of the group, and we were brought in to provide expert safeguarding advice. CEO Dr Deborah Kitson brought her expertise in the subject to work with the group to drive forward the safeguarding adults in sport agenda. Additionally, Dr Kitson often advised organisations on a variety of safeguarding adults issues.

The group has always recognised that safeguarding adults is both different, and in many ways more complex, than safeguarding children. It is not straightforward to identify an adult at risk because of the complexity around the Mental Capacity Act, and the adult’s right to self-determination. The group’s concern is that organisations are not informed enough to ensure that complaints and concerns about adults are properly identified and acted upon, which puts them at risk of failing to meet their duty of care. It also risks leaving the individuals concerned at best disillusioned with sport, and at worst vulnerable to harm.

The Ann Craft Trust appointed its first Safeguarding Adults in Sport and Activity Manager in 2015. Since then, the Trust’s Safeguarding Adults in Sport team has expanded to include a dedicated manager for sport in Wales, and managers for elite sport and unregulated sport and activity. And as the team’s grown, so has the sport and activity’s understanding of what it means to safeguard adults at risk.

Safer Culture, Safer Sport

The Ann Craft Trust’s safeguarding adults in sport team is currently campaigning to create safer cultures in sport and activity.

An unhealthy or toxic culture is one where individuals fear speaking up, and where serious complaints will be dismissed and brushed under the carpet while inappropriate behaviour is ignored.

A safer culture is one where this doesn’t happen. We believe the foundations of a safer culture are to:

  • Listen
    An environment where everyone is confident their concerns are welcomed, listened to and addressed appropriately.
  • Learn
    Where organisations encourage continuous learning and reflection at all levels. Applying this to improve and adapt.
  • Lead
    Organisations should lead by example to empower everyone with the confidence to challenge and instigate change.

While all organisations will have their own set of values, we believe organisations that positively promote safer cultures follow similar values. For example, an environment where everyone:

  1. Has the right to have fun and be safe from harm and abuse
  2. Is treated with respect and dignity
  3. Feels valued and treated equally
  4. Has a say – their voice is listened to, welcomed and encouraged
  5. Has the chance to thrive
  6. Is empowered to recognise and report concerns without fear or judgment
  7. Knows concerns are actively followed up and taken seriously
  8. Has the right to organisational transparency, honesty, integrity and fairness
  9. Is offered equal opportunities
  10. Is encouraged to, and has the opportunity to, learn, reflect and improve


As part of this campaign, we’re asking sport and activity organisations to commit to improving their cultures. The #SaferCultureSaferSport campaign aims to provide you with all the tools you need to create a safer and more inclusive culture in your sport.

You can learn more about the campaign, access key learning materials, and make your pledge to creating safer cultures, on our #SaferCultureSaferSport hub.

  • safeguarding
  • A New Strategy for Sport
  • sport governance
  • Article Author

About Emma Gibson

Emma joined the Ann Craft Trust in May 2022 as head of the Safeguarding Adults in Sport Team. Prior to this appointment she was the safeguarding lead for a national governing body of sport for nearly 10 years.
A former safeguarding children tutor, Emma has also held safeguarding and volunteer management roles in two other governing bodies of sport a…