sportDr Mike Hartill, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Sport, and Philip Prescott, a former Senior Lecturer at Edge Hill, have led research which has raised awareness of child sexual abuse in the international community and improved child safeguarding in the British Rugby Football League (RFL).

Mike’s original research was the first investigation into the sexual abuse of male children within sport, exploring the stories of men who had been abused and showing that the culture of male-sport can often create environments that are conducive to the sexual abuse of children. Alongside this ground-breaking research, Mike and Philip have produced studies for the RFL to help improve its approach towards child protection and safeguarding. Again, this work constituted some of the very first work in this field. Their research has identified the key challenges that the rugby league community faces in relation child protection and provided recommendations on how the RFL might improve its implementation of child protection policy.

This research has supported the RFL in meeting its national obligations in safeguarding children and a further study, funded by Edge Hill and the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit, has recently been completed.

Mike’s research has also contributed significantly to the development of a European agenda for the prevention of child sexual abuse in sport and he has recently provided consultancy on this topic for a number of national and international sports agencies within Europe, including both the Council of Europe and the European Commission. He is currently leading the Edge Hill team as part of the Sport Respects Your Rights project.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) recognised the impact of Dr Mike Hartill’s research, with aspects of the project assessed as having ‘outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance’, achieving a four-star ranking, the highest possible.

Dr Mike Hartill’s research contributed to Edge Hill University’s Sport and Physical Activity research being ranked in the top 25 in the UK for its research impact in the national Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

Academic leads ground-breaking research against sexual abuse in sport

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Future generations of young sportspeople could be protected from sexual abuse following life-changing research by an Edge Hill University academic.

Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Sport, Dr Mike Hartill, has conducted research with male survivors of abuse in sport which now aims to allow survivors’ voices to be heard at the highest levels of government.

Despite several high profile cases of sexual abuse in sport in recent years, published research surrounding this topic has been relatively unexplored. Mike’s research, with the support of Survivors Manchester, will break new ground through facilitating the stories of men who were abused within a sport or PE context, allowing survivor’s voices to be heard. His research will be published in a forthcoming book by Routledge and used to create sport-based resources with the aim of influencing policymakers and the wider sporting community in their future development of sport and school-sport.

Dr Mike Hartill said:

Whilst we have had child protection policies in UK sport for over a decade, the stories of adult ‘survivors’ who were sexually abused within sport contexts have largely been unheard. This is particularly the case for male athletes.

“If we are to further develop a sports culture that is resilient to sexual exploitation and abuse of athletes, and an informed sports community with the capacity to safeguard children’s welfare, it is crucial that such stories are heard and that we learn from them.”

Mike’s ground-breaking research is also having a positive impact on student employability. On Wednesday 28th January, Edge Hill students will have the unique opportunity to present at a Sports Respects Your Rights meeting which will be attended by some of the most influential bodies in sport, including: Rugby Football League, The Lawn Tennis Association & Tennis Foundation, The Football Association (FA), Manchester City FC, Rugby Football Union, England Netball, UK Athletics, and British Gymnastics.

This opportunity follows students presenting at the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit annual safeguarding conference. At the conference Edge Hill University students Oliver Davy-Day (Sport Studies), Stephen Mansfield (Sports Development), Laura Swaffer (Coaching), Gareth Dowling (Student Union president 2013-14) and Joel Donnelly (MRes Sport Studies), presented the project to over 50 national governing bodies. Student volunteers have also delivered workshops for sport students and organised two awareness-raising events in November in The Hub, initiating the #STOP1in5 Twitter campaign.

Stuart Haw, third year Physical Education student said:

The Sport Respects Your Rights Project was something I knew little of prior to joining the campaign, but in the year I have been involved I have found a passion in myself for the battle against sexual violence and gender harassment in sport. This new-found passion has also brought with it experiences that I would not have otherwise had, such as giving lectures, workshops and speaking at conferences. The skills I gained from these are priceless and have helped me with my studies at University too.

I feel much more employable with the skills I have gained and also have a better idea of what I want to do once I have graduated. Along with this, I have also had a great networking opportunities with relevant organisations and this has made the thought of finding a full time job less daunting.”

Dr Hartill previously conducted the world’s first investigation into the sexual abuse of male children within sport, exploring the stories of men who had been abused and showing that the culture of male-sport can often create environments that are conducive to the sexual abuse of children.

He currently leads the Edge Hill team as part of the Sport Respects Your Rights project which aims to help young Europeans at grass roots sports level by empowering them against sexual exploitation and abuse. An end of project conference will be held in Vienna in February. The Edge Hill team will be accompanied by television personality and charity campaigner Charlie Webster who will be a guest speaker, as well as Rugby League celebrity and TV presenter Terry O’Connor.

Read the story of Dr Mike Hartill’s research here.

The Sport Respects Your Rights project has received financial support from the 10530873-european-union-logoDAPHNE III Programme 2011/2012 of the European Union.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of Edge Hill University and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.

Rugby League Youth Panel quest to stop sexual and gender-based violence in and through sport

A Rugby League Youth Panel is actively campaigning to end sexual and gender based violence in sport as well as using the power of sport to highlight this problem and empower young people to keep themselves safe.

The #stop1in5 campaign has been set up by the young people (16-22 years) as part of the EU-funded project Sport Respects Your Rights (led by SPORTUNION Austria).

In collaboration with the Rugby Football League and the Lawn Tennis Association, Edge Hill University represents the UK as one of seven international project partners, led by the University’s Dr Mike Hartill who has conducted extensive research into the issue of child abuse in sport.

The project aims to develop capacity amongst young Europeans (16-22 years old) at grass roots sports level by empowering them against sexual exploitation and abuse. The young people are working together with educated leaders in their national networks to create youth-led campaigns and will become active agents of social change in their settings, encouraging peers and intermediaries to contribute to shaping a protective sports environment.

The UK young people received training in Austria from experts at the German Sports University, Cologne to learn more about the issue before disseminating their knowledge amongst their peers back in the UK.

This resulted in the Rugby League Youth Panel launching their #stop1in5 campaign earlier this year as part of the larger ‘One in Five’ campaign from the Council of Europe. Their campaign makes full use of social networking channels to communicate its powerful visual message. #stop1in5 wristbands have been produced, which the young people distributed at the recent Magic Weekend event at Manchester’s Etihad stadium. A Twitter hashtag and selfie hand signal campaign has also proved very successful (see @RLYouthPanel), with many well-known faces and sports personalities lending their support by using the hashtag or Tweeting a picture. Players Rangi Chase, Joshua Charnley, BBC Sport Presenter Tanya Arnold and Ray French MBE have all supported the campaign. Major sports agencies such as ENGSO Youth and the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit have also been very supportive of the young people’s efforts.

All four youth campaign ambassadors are involved with Rugby League regularly and are aged between 16-22 years old. They are assisted by Colette Eden (RFL Safeguarding Manager), Alex Davidson (Salford RL Player) alongside Dr Mike Hartill.

Dr Mike Hartill, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Sport said: “Within the department of Sport and Physical Activity we have been educating young people about abuse and child protection in sport for over a decade so it was fantastic to be invited by SPORTUNION Austria to do this on a wider scale and to share our expertise with other sports organisations throughout Europe. The RFL, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Edge Hill Students Union have all been tremendously supportive and are helping us to implement this project within the UK. The Rugby League Youth Panel was devised during a training workshop at Edge Hill and the progress they have already made has been inspiring. The hand signal campaign was the brainchild of Jamie Elkaleh and is now attracting attention and support from around Europe. It has got our campaign phase off to a great start and our teams are planning further events over the rest of the year. A key aspect of this project is that we want it to continue even after the European funding has ceased and the efforts of the Edge Hill Students’ Union president Gareth Dowling have been particularly important in this regard. Gareth is one of our team members and has been very supportive of the project since he attended a roundtable meeting in February along with other key supporting agencies such as Lancashire Police and the Child Protection in Sport Unit for England. Sexual violence is a problem that particularly effects young people. This project gives us the opportunity to educate young sportspeople about this problem but also to empower them to reach a broader group through their own creative impulses and initiatives. I hope that this will be a sustainable project that Edge Hill University can be proud of.”

For more information about the project – which has received financial support from the DAPHNE III Programme 2011/2012 of the European Union – please see or email [email protected]

Facebook: Sport Respects Your Rights UK
Twitter: @SportRespect

If you are an Edge Hill University student who is interested in becoming involved please contact Gareth Dowling at the Students’ Union.

*The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of Dr Mike Hartill and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.