With growing concerns about female safety and sexual harassment and discrimination in sport, Edge Hill’s leading researchers are launching a timely new public seminar series that will address these and other challenges for sport.

The University’s Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS) working with the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) will host some of the world’s foremost experts on the topics of gender and safeguarding in sport during the series of events, which launches on 10 November.

Recent headlines of female athletes suffering sexual, physical and emotional abuse, women joggers being sexually harassed on the street and women coaches experiencing discrimination from colleagues have brought the issues of gender-based violence and discrimination in sport to the forefront of public consciousness.

Speaking about the importance of the seminar series, Dr Melanie Lang, who is running the seminar series and is a Reader in Child Protection in Sport and Assistant Director of the CPSS, said:

“Women face unique challenges when participating in the male-dominated sphere of sport and physical activity, whether as athletes or coaches. With recent documentaries and news articles on the subject of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in sport, awareness of the sadly all-too-common mistreatment of many athletes has never been higher.

“I hope this seminar series will help us pool knowledge and resources in the hopes of tackling all forms of violence and abuse against adults and children in sport. It is through research and learning lessons from the past that we will make long-lasting transformation to ensure athletes and coaches can enjoy sport in a safe environment.”

The inaugural seminar will be held online on Wednesday 10 November at 1pm with talks from internationally renowned scholars Dr Natalie Barker-Ruchti from Öbrero University in Sweden and Professor Leanne Norman from Leeds Beckett University in the UK. They will discuss their world-leading research on gender in sport and the impact this has on safeguarding and protecting women and girls.

The full seminar series takes place throughout 2021/22. Expert speakers will be invited to Edge Hill to give talks on a range of relevant topics that align with the CPSS ambition of contributing to enhanced safeguarding knowledge and practice to promote and protect the welfare of children and adults in sport.

Edge Hill’s CPSS is at the forefront of research on the prevention of abuse, exploitation and maltreatment in sport.  CPSS produces high-quality research evidence that informs policy and practice and members work with many organisations and agencies – local, national and international – from the sport, child protection, and safeguarding sector, as well as with current and former coaches and athletes.

Speaking at this first event will be Associate Professor in Sport Management and Sport Coaching Dr Natalie Barker-Ruchti from Öbrero University in Sweden. The title of her talk is The Impact of Gender on Safeguarding and Protecting Athletes in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics.

She said: “A key interest of mine is to understand and prevent violence against women’s gymnasts. The perspective of gender as a social structure has helped me to identify the underlying ideals and norms that influence not only women’s gymnastics as a sport, but its practices and the safeguarding and protection efforts sport organisations have adopted or are considering to adopt.”

She is joined by Professor Leanne Norman from Leeds Beckett University who will deliver a talk entitled Sexual Discrimination and Harassment in Elite Sports Coaching. As well as being Professor of Sport and Sociocultural Studies, Professor Norman is Director of the Research Centre for Social Justice in Sport and Society within the Carnegie School of Sport. 

She said: “The focus of the talk will be to introduce some of the research led within the Centre on sexual discrimination and harassment within sport. Our work within the Centre utilises research to uncover some of the root cultural and systemic causes of injustice in sport and use this insight to tackle such issues at their very heart. In the presentation on Wednesday, I will provide an example project looking into discrimination in high-performance athletics coaching within the UK and discuss what we can learn from this case study to improve welfare, safety, and inclusion more broadly across sport.”

CPSS seminars are free to attend, take place online and are open to all – staff, students, alumni and members of the public, with the aim of facilitating research networking and knowledge exchange in a relaxed friendly environment. Please click here to register your place. This marks the beginning of a series of CPSS seminars, the full list can be found here.

If you are interested in studying social science or learning more about child protection, please take a look at the Edge Hill website to see the full range of social science courses available.