Women’s sport is in the ascendancy like never before and we have just witnessed an incredible summer of female sport with much to celebrate. But with growth and increased profile comes greater scrutiny – and rightly so. The sacking of the England Football Manager, Mark Sampson, highlights how football needs to dramatically improve its approach to the safety and welfare of its players. The FA’s handling of the situation has been described by the Sports Minister as ‘a mess’ – it’s hard to disagree.
Our primary concern is the welfare of athletes in sport. Through our work with elite athletes and our contributions to Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson’s recent Duty of Care Review, we are very aware of how difficult it can be for athletes to raise issues and challenge the authority in their sport. As Eni Aluko has experienced, whistleblowers can pay an unacceptably high price. Athletes have talked to us about the risk of losing funding or not being selected if they call out problems. This is unacceptable and terrible for all sports.
We strongly endorse the recommendations in the Duty of Care Review that identifies the root and branch changes required to ensure sporting environments meet the highest standards. The Mark Sampson situation is not a one-off, and we waste a valuable opportunity to develop and improve the sporting system if we reduce it to that.
Women’s Sport Trust