Child and athlete welfare: research and knowledge transfer in sport organisations

Submitting Institution

Brunel University

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services

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Summary of the impact

Brackenridge's research on sexual abuse and prevention has informed a range of practice communities including: law, psychiatry, sport psychology, medicine, the arts, sports development and social work. It has effected change in policy, practice and regulation at local, national and international levels, including: advocacy (e.g. for the FA); professional development (e.g. for the IOC, FINA and FIFA); committee and expert advice (e.g. for the National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers Research Committee, the Dame Janet Smith enquiry into abuse by Jimmy Savile at the BBC, and the NSPCC's Child Protection in Sport Unit). At the international level, this work has prompted reform in the management of welfare services in the Olympic movement and in UNICEF's network of sport for development programmes. This impact was recognised through the award of an OBE in 2012.

Underpinning research

Brackenridge's research at Brunel has been both primary (empirical qualitative and quantitative studies) and secondary (research reviews and secondary data analyses). The former has focussed on the antecedents, correlates and prevention of forms of exploitation in sport and the latter on communicating the messages and policy implications of her work to international audiences within and beyond sport.

In 2006 Brackenridge was invited by the IOC Medical Commission to be Programme Consultant for an international expert panel (N = 16) on sexual harassment and abuse in sport. She convened this group and led the writing of the Consensus Statement based on its research (published February 2007). Its recommendations constitute an action plan for all International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) on policy development and education and training for coaches, administrators and athletes. In 2009-10 the IOC invited Brackenridge to lead a research review and design of online education materials on abuse prevention for athletes and coaches (piloted at the first Youth Olympic Games, in Singapore, Aug 2010), and materials for IFs and NOCs to help them prevent harassment and abuse (launched at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Jan 2012).

In 2007, Brackenridge was invited by UNICEF to be lead researcher for two Expert Panel meetings on sport and violence against children at their Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy. Outputs from the associated commissioned research were published in 2010. The main publication emanating from this work ( set out the evidence base for violence against children in sport and practical steps by which children's rights and welfare might be embedded within sport at all levels; from community recreation to elite performance. This is of particular importance for the burgeoning sport-for-development movement to ensure child protection within and not just through sport. This work led directly to the launch of International Standards for Safeguarding Children in Sport (

Brackenridge has continued to publish empirically-driven, basic and applied research and to conduct welfare-related studies for a range of sport organisations within the UK including: the English FA (a book and two Respect programme evaluation reports) and sportscotland (reviews of women in sport and of sexual orientation in sport). She has also developed methodological innovations for data management and for measuring organisational change. In 2010, with funding from the NSPCC, she organised an international research and policy symposium on the elite child athlete which was used as a platform to launch a young scientists' network — the Brunel International Research Network for Athlete Welfare (BIRNAW). More than 50 researchers worldwide had joined before the second BIRNAW Symposium in November 2013. Its purpose is to extend the community of scholars and to broaden athlete welfare research beyond sexual exploitation to encompass themes such as: emotional abuse, relationship breakdown and maintenance, disordered eating, self-harming, overtraining and other paediatric exercise concerns.

References to the research

1. Brackenridge, C.H. Fasting, K., Kirby, S. and Leahy, T. (2010) Protecting Children from Violence in Sport: A review with a focus on industrialized countries. Florence: United Nations Innocenti Research Centre Review.

2. Brackenridge, C.H. Fasting, K., Kirby, S. and Leahy, T., Parent, S. and Svela Sand, T. (2010) The Place of Sport in the UN Study on Violence against Children. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, IRC Stock No. 595U, Innocenti Discussion Papers, IDP 2010-01.

3. Brackenridge, C.H., Pitchford, A. and Wilson, M. (2011) `Respect: Results of a pilot project designed to improve behaviour in English football', Managing Leisure — An International Journal.


4. Brackenridge, C.H., Bishopp, D., Moussali, S. and Tapp, J. (2008) `The characteristics of sexual abuse in sport: A multidimensional scaling analysis of events described in media reports', International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Special Issue: Abuse and Harassment in Sport Implications for the Sport Psychology Profession (Edited by T. Leahy), 16(4): 385-406. [Impact factor 2.8 Sportscience 15, 15-17]


5. Fasting, K., Brackenridge, C.H., Miller, K.E. and Sabo, D. (2008) `Participation in college sports and protection from sexual victimization', International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Special Issue: Abuse and Harassment in Sport Implications for the Sport Psychology Profession (Edited by T. Leahy), 16(4): 427-441. [Impact factor 2.8 Sportscience 15, 15-17]


6. Brackenridge, C.H. and Pitchford, A. (2009) Respect Research Project 2008-09 Season: Final Report. Report to The Football Association. [pdf available at">]

Details of the impact

Brackenridge's most important contribution has been bringing together the world's leading sport organisation-the IOC-and the world's largest child protection agency- UNICEF- to use her research findings to develop abuse prevention interventions. This is significant for two main reasons. First, it has begun to embed international human rights and child welfare in the international sport delivery system (through the IFs and NOCs); and secondly, it has begun to transform the way that UNICEF and its partners engage with children's sport. The impact of Brackenridge's research on these practice communities is reflected in:

  • the commitment of UNICEF's Chief of Child protection, Susan Bissell, to adapt the General Measures that are used to evaluate the implementation of the Articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to incorporate prevention of abuse in sport (from 2010 onwards);
  • the IOC request for every National Olympic Committee to develop an athlete protection and anti-harassment infrastructure (from 2007 onwards);
  • the home country Sports Councils' development of mandatory athlete welfare and safeguarding standards by all government-funded sport organisations (from 2003 onwards);
  • requests for advice about athlete welfare, policy development and abuse prevention from international federations and UK government sport agencies (ongoing);
  • the requirement for every BASES-accredited/chartered sport scientists to undertake training in child protection (from 2004 onwards);
  • the mainstreaming of FA's Respect (behaviour improvement) programme throughout the affiliated game (from 2008-09). By 2009, 40,000 FA coaches and Referees had received Respect training and 854 leagues had committed to the Respect programme;
  • the evolution and adoption of welfare plans for all major youth and school games events (e.g. UK School Games);
  • awards: the USA Women's Sports Foundation/Darlene Kluka Women's Sport and Physical Activity Research Award (2007); the Association for the Advancement of Applied Psychology Distinguished International Scholar Award (2008); an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Bedfordshire (2009) and Honorary Fellowship of the University of Chichester (2010) and an OBE in 2012.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. International Olympic Committee (2007) Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport.
  2. IOC Sexual harassment, abuse and bullying online materials for organisations, coaches and youth ( and )
  3. Bissell, S. ,UNICEF Chief of Child Protection (2010) `Notes on international children's rights, implications for elite sport and the work of UNICEF', in C.H. Brackenridge & D. Rhind (Eds.) Elite Child Athlete Welfare: International perspectives. , Uxbridge: Brunel University Press, pp. 21-24. ISBN 978-1-902316-83-3. (
  4. OBE citation from BASES (
  5. FA online parent education (
  6. BASES safeguarding (
  7. Brackenridge, C.H. and Telfer, H. (2011) `The professional responsibilities of children's coaches', in Stafford, I. (Ed.) Coaching Children in Sport. London: Routledge.
  8. Brackenridge, C.H. (2009) `Olympic engagement in promoting athlete welfare', Proceedings of the XIII Olympic Congress, Copenhagen October 9th 2009, Lausanne, IOC, pp. 65-66. ISBN 9291490123-3.
  9. Brackenridge, C.H., Alldred, P., Rivers, I., Jarvis, A., and Maddocks, K. (2008) A Review of Sexual Orientation in Sport. Edinburgh: Sportscotland.
  10. Brackenridge, C.H., Pitchford, A., Nutt, G. and Russell, K. (2007) Child Welfare in Football: An exploration of children's welfare in the modern game. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.


1. Letter received from the Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF: The contact can corroborate the research impacts in the areas of child rights and child protection and how the research has informed UNICEF to guide governments, sporting bodies and teachers by providing appropriate training.

2.Letter received from a member (MD) of the International Olympics Committee Medical Commission: The contact can corroborate how the research has been instrumental in creating change and guiding policy development to safeguard the health and well-being of athletes worldwide

3. Letter received from Chief, Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD), United National Human Rights: The contact can corroborate the research impacts on raising awareness of various forms of abuse, violence and exploitation in professional and amateur sports.

4. Letter received from CEO, Hong Kong Sports Institute: The contact can corroborate how the research has raised the public understanding of child protection, gender equity and prevention of sexual harassment and abuse in sport worldwide.

5. Letter received from the Head of Equality and Child Protection, The Football Association: The contact can corroborate the research impact on the effectiveness of the intervention programme — behavioural change programme in football called 'Respect'