Safeguarding can’t be just signed off

Andy Pollard, head of safeguarding for Yorkshire Rugby and former police officer, argues that safeguarding goes beyond a tickbox exercise. Ignore the full implications and your club could suffer. More importantly, your players may fall into the cracks too.

“All our coaches have a DBS Certificate. What more can we do?”

I often hear the above statement in rugby clubs, and other organisations. It indicates a positive outcome from people who undertake a role as safeguarding officers. Therefore and unfortunately, other people in senior roles may believe this is the maximum that’s done, and probably find safeguarding a taboo subject.

How can we make safeguarding a priority in clubs, alongside the main agenda items, at any committee meeting?


We consider a strong safeguarding policy a necessity in any club with an age grade section, but don’t senior members also have the right to safeguarding? What about the parents of our junior members? If we do not recruit and develop players in junior teams, then where do our players come from in the future?


In community rugby clubs the sponsorship often comes from the local community,. If we have a negative safeguarding incident, will that sponsor still wish to be associated with our club?


We rely on income from the bar to support our clubs, whether that is from game days, private parties or events. What is the effect of a loss of that income?


These are three key areas for clubs to continue to build and expand but aren’t often linked to safeguarding. So, let’s look at the national press and try to link recent headlines to our sport.


Spiking is where someone has their drink laced with drugs or they are injected with a needle without noticing. The perpetrator can then take advantage of the victim.

A large number of clubs are either in city centres or have students/teenagers playing for their sides. Can we support them by having educational posters around the bar, or work with the local licensing officers to identify dangerous trends? Do your bar staff know how to identify a spiking incident, do they know what to do if someone asks if Angela is working (a call for help to bar staff)? What if it happens at a private party?


Initiations are where new members are at the club are put through a series of tasks, such as drinking, to “welcome” them to the team. They still affect senior players and some will not join a club for fear of what may take place! Consider the effect on your alcohol license if a serious incident takes place after drinking at your club, with someone seriously injured!


County lines means that drugs are transported across the country, often from one police authority to another.

Young people without criminal records are often targeted by drug gangs and used to transport those drugs. Can coaches and club officials recognise the signs and would you act if you saw a young person from a club 30 miles away in your town by themselves one evening? What if the drug dealers start to park at your club and approach your younger members, or are scaring away parents and players with anti-social behaviours?

I’ve challenged you to think about not just your approach as an individual, but how the club needs to act.

When you share safeguarding initiatives on your club website and with your community links, this will help educate your own members and those of the local community. It shows that you take your role in the community seriously and, in return, they should support you.

I have often heard coaches state that they are not parents, and it is not their responsibility to talk to young people about what they consider to be parental matters, but are not coaches in a role where they can influence and support young people and their development.

Are we role models? I am sure we will all agree our parents could not give us advice through certain periods of our teenage years, but we would listen to our peers! Posters and social media send messages too!

Safeguarding is more than a DBS certificate. We want everyone in our clubs to be safe, and the sport we love to grow. Community Rugby, support their community.


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