Solicitors Talk About Safeguarding Athletes

Sports can be a positive medium in educating the public said Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee’s (FASANOC) President, Makarita Lenoa at a Safeguarding the Athlete Workshop which was facilitated by Munro Leys.

Ms Lenoa said the workshop was the first of its kind to involve FASANOC, National Federations (NFs) and Solicitors.

"There are many ills in society that can creep into sports and it is important for us to be educated on what these ills are and how best to deal with them," she said.

Ms Lenoa welcomed the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee who are leading the Safeguarding of Athletes in sports and said that, without athletes we’d have no sport.

"Fiji being a signatory to the convention on Human Rights,all NF’s including FASANOC have moral, ethical and legal responsibilities towards the athletes," she said.

Managing Partner of Munro Leys, Nicholas Barnes said the idea for the workshop came about after a conversation with Fiji Olympian Association chairperson, Carl Probert. They both felt a lot of work was needed in this space.

Mr Barnes along with his team from Munro Leys discussed and presented various examples of harassment and abuse in sports.

His team also went through some international cases of harassment and abuse in sports highlighting neglect by team officials,executives and fellow athletes.

He said it was important to set out policies and procedures that can be followed when complaints are received.

Mr Barnes said it was important that FASANOC and NF’s have a policy that clearly defines harassment and abuse in sports and who is protected by the policy.

"It is also important that FASANOC has a reporting procedure where athletes, officials and anyone can report harassment and abuse," he said.

"This could include channels such as writing in, an online form, email, in-person or via telephone."

Mr Barnes said FASANOC or NF’s should also invest in training a welfare or safeguarding officer to deal with these reporting procedures.

"They will also play a central role in reporting and investigations and work with local authorities should the need arise," he said.

"All cases of harassment and abuse should be referred through an established disciplinary procedure hence the importance of defined policies and upskilling of personnel," he said.

Mr Barnes said it was also important to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and ensure that an organisation’s athlete-safeguarding policies not only assists in the reporting process but prevents such incidences from happening in the first place.