Coaches, players and sport clubs are teaming up with police, charities and local authorities to send a clear message to communities that child sexual exploitation has no place within sport.
Salford Red Devils, FC United, Wigan Warriors and Rochdale Hornets are among some of the clubs supporting the ‘It’s Not Okay’ campaign as part of a week of action focussing on sport.
Throughout the week, police and partners will be raising awareness of child sexual exploitation with those that play, watch or coach sport by delivering training sessions, hosting information stalls at local leisure centres and speaking to young players about child sexual exploitation.
Sports clubs will be encouraged to sign and display an ‘It’s Not Okay ‘ charter on their noticeboards, reinforcing their commitment to tackling and preventing child sexual exploitation from happening on their watch.
Detective Superintendent Joanne Rawlinson from Greater Manchester Police said: “Greater Manchester is a fantastic place for sport and we want to celebrate this while ensuring it is a safe space for children and young people.
“Allegations of historical child sex abuse within sport has recently been highlighted nationally and it is important that people feel able to come forward regardless of whether the abuse happened 10 years ago or 10 days ago.
“Children and young people may choose to confide in their coach and it is vital that staff know how to respond to a child who may turn to them for help.
“This week we are providing training to people working within sport to increase their understanding of child sexual exploitation and the steps that can be taken to identify the signs and provide support to victims.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Beverley Hughes said: “Greater Manchester’s sporting reputation is world-class, and it’s fantastic to see so many of our clubs getting involved with this important campaign. It’s vital that sports coaches are able to recognise the signs of sexual exploitation, and that they know what to do if they have any concerns that a child at their club may be being abused.”
A spokesman for Salford Red Devils said: "We were keen to get onboard and support the campaign from the start. As a community-focused major sports club, a large number of our fans are juniors and their wellbeing, and that of all kids is of great importance to us.
“It is sad that even in this day and age that a campaign such as "It's Not Okay" is even necessary and going forward we will do anything we can to help spread its message as far and wide as possible.”
Jane Gardiner, Development Manager (Workforce) for Greater Sport said: “We’re proud to support the child sexual exploitation awareness week, It’s Not Okay and GMP’s work to highlight this area and offer guidance on what to do, which is integral for our sports workforce. If a situation arises then we need to ensure that volunteers and coaches in our local sports clubs are comfortable and confident in the correct procedures to address this.”
Sue Cuffe, Assistant Director for Barnardo’s Child Sexual Exploitation Services in the region said: “We always encourage children to take part in sport and leisure activities where they can, as we know the huge benefits this can bring to wellbeing.
“This awareness week highlights the importance of parents and young people being educated and alert to the signs of exploitation, so that if a situation arises in a sports environment or someone does something that makes a child feel uncomfortable, they know who they can approach to deal with this.
“Barnardo’s works with teachers to educate pupils in schools across Greater Manchester about child sexual exploitation, helping children to be aware of what healthy relationships look like across all areas of their life, both in the real world and online.”
Wigan Warriors Scholarship Manager, Steve McCormack said: “As a Club and through the Community Foundation we work with thousands of youngsters each week and a large number of our fans are juniors too.
“Their wellbeing is of upmost importance to all of us and we are proud to be involved in “It’s Not Okay” and will endeavour to do all that we can to help spread this important message far and wide.”
To report child sexual exploitation, call police on 101 or 999 if a child is in immediate danger. Alternatively, visit www.itsnotokay.co.uk to find contact details for local ‘It’s Not Okay’ team.
Sports organisations can download a charter from www.itsnotokay.co.uk
Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #ItsNotOkayInSport