1. What was the motivation behind joining Sport Resolutions’ panel as a specialist member?
I wanted to bring the perspective of an NGB to the panel. I’ve chaired England Hockey’s Case Management Panel for 12 years so I understand the difficulties and issues faced in safeguarding situations which are often grey and complex. You have a duty to protect the children involved in your sport and it’s challenging trying to do that in the real world but you can see the importance of it on a daily basis.
I also wanted to support an initiative that provided a fair process for those involved and sought to be child centred.
2. How has your professional experience prior to joining Sport Resolutions' panel had an impact on the manner in which you approach sport disputes/matters?
I am also the Chair of my local club so I understand the importance of volunteers and the critical role that they play in all sports. It can be really difficult to find good volunteers and the temptation to cut corners or just use the volunteer who is always available can be significant. Safeguarding is far more than headline grabbing cases as it reflects the quality of experience millions of children receive every week. I’d like to think my experience has given me a good understanding of the often competing challenges posed by the need to simply put your sport on at club level. Safeguarding at a club level requires volunteers to manage other volunteers and any organisation knows the importance of managing people well. If you get that wrong you can be creating an environment which could throw up all sorts of issues from low level poor culture to something more serious.
3. In your role as a National Safeguarding Panel member, you are called upon to deal with sensitive matters. What are some of the challenges involved in the resolution of safeguarding matters from your perspective?
I have always tackled the process from a risk management point of view rather than a legal one. I leave the legal side to the qualified members of the NSP so I try and focus on the best way to manage the risk in each case. The risk can be assessed in such a variety of ways but common sense is usually a good place to start. It can be really difficult as an NGB to write policies and procedures that could cover every piece of human behaviour and this can be exploited. It’s not uncommon to hear “show me where it says I can’t do that”. If we want to protect sport’s power to be a positive experience we need to be unafraid to say what is unacceptable. Sometimes training and education can be the right solution, it should always be proportionate, but children should have the right to play sport safely.
4. Which sport dispute case have you found the most interesting and/or inspiring, and why?
The most inspiring cases are the ones where the victim has used an enormous amount of courage to come forward. Power imbalance can be pronounced in sport where, for example, a child is relying on an adult to coach them to their dreams and some adults can exploit this to remain undetected. The victim may feel unable to report abuse until years later and you need a high quality safeguarding system that can support them through the reporting process and then manage the case in a way that is fair and transparent for all concerned. It’s often not easy or quick and requires considerable commitment to get it right.
5. Any key developments and issues in your field to watch in 2019?
I’m looking to see whether the government delivers on its commitment to bring sport coaches in to line with teachers in terms of inappropriate relationships. Far too many adult coaches exploit 16 year old victims and the law should be made consistent.
6. Any tips for individuals looking to get involved in the field?
You have to believe in safeguarding. I don’t think it’s something you can do well unless you get it but it’s a really rewarding (and occasionally frustrating) area. It can be a very good first step to see if you have skills and experiences that can help an NGB with its safeguarding work. The need for independence in a lot of the processes means that there is often a role for someone who wants to get involved. It doesn’t have to be “your” sport but often an understanding of how it works, what’s good practice in your sport and what should be expected can be as useful as specialist safeguarding knowledge.
Panel Member Biography
Ian Wilson, Director at England Hockey
Ian Wilson is a Director of England Hockey and Chair of its Safeguarding Case Management Panel. He represents the governing body at all independent safeguarding disciplinary hearings. He has been a member of Sport Resolutions’ National Safeguarding Panel since its inception in 2013 working across a range of sports.