27th September 2023
National Network of Sport Welfare Officers announced by Sport England

This follows recommendations made by The Whyte Review and will support Club Welfare Officers nationwide.

Sport England are investing £14.83 million of National Lottery money to establish a national network of welfare officers who’ll mentor and support clubs across England.

The Sport Welfare Officers project is a policy response from both Sport England and UK Sport to The Whyte Review, which questioned the level of safeguarding responsibility given to grassroots volunteers.

Developed in collaboration with a number of partners – including national governing bodies (NGBs), Active Partnerships (APs), the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit and the Ann Craft Trust – the project will support local clubs in ensuring the welfare of their members, both children and adults.

A group of women smiling as they take a break from playing rugby

The officers will assist Club Welfare Officers in promoting good practice and safe sport at a local level.

And Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England's Chief Executive, has welcomed the initiative, which also forms part of the Governance, Safeguarding and Integrity commitment in our Uniting The Movement strategy.

“The role that these new Sport Welfare Officers will play is a really important addition to the landscape that comes at a crucial time,” he said.

“The project will directly support our ambition to champion the life-changing impact of being active and our mission to tackle deep-rooted inequalities and unlock the advantages of sport and physical activity for everyone.

“Ensuring a safe, inclusive environment is vital in improving our children and young people's experience of sport in particular, and we know from the evidence presented – not least in the Whyte Review of Gymnastics – that this is not always the case.

“These roles will directly support this – helping to create the right blend of action, at both a national and local level, that’s needed to help promote a consistent approach in clubs to support their own welfare officers.

“By introducing this new partnership, we aim to increase welfare capacity and expertise at local and national level and improve best practice to help prevent concerns and make sport safe for everyone.”

Working with a network of 42 Active Partnerships (including Wesport), the project will recruit and train 59 Sport Welfare Officers, who will work with NGBs to mentor and support Club Welfare Officers nationwide.

The Sport Welfare Officers will add capacity and expertise to the existing safeguarding work of NGBs and Active Partnerships.

“The project will directly support our ambition to champion the life-changing impact of being active and our mission to tackle deep-rooted inequalities and unlock the advantages of sport and physical activity for everyone."

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive, Sport England

They’ll also help further understand safeguarding in local clubs, e.g. how policies and procedures are cascaded and help share good practice.

And they’ll work closely with other Sport Welfare Officers, NGBs and wider organisations; to connect people working on welfare and safeguarding, both inside and outside sport.

The project will run for three years, from October 2023 until March 2027, with an evaluation study in place to track its progress and measure the effectiveness of the Club Welfare Officers in feeling supported.

The Active Partnerships National Organisation will manage the project and support the development of the nationwide network of Sport Welfare Officers, who will be based within Active Partnerships across England. Recruitment to these roles is expected to begin later this month.

To help with project management, the Active Partnerships National Organisation is already recruiting to two national roles where the successful candidates will support and connect the network of Sport Welfare Officers.

Andy Taylor, chief executive of the Active Partnerships National Organisation, knows how significant today's announcement will be.

"Sport England and UK Sport made a commitment to create a network of Sport Welfare Officers in response to the Whyte Review," he said.

"Working with partners across the sector including the NSPCC Children Protection in Sport Unit, Ann Craft Trust, national governing bodies of sport and others, we are pleased to play a key role in delivering on this commitment.

"We are currently recruiting to two brand new roles in our national team and we'll be supporting the Active Partnerships with their recruitment of the network of Sport Welfare Officers that will operate at a local level.

"All of these new officers will play a crucial role in supporting national governing bodies and local clubs to promote good practice and to ensure safe sport is provided for everyone."

And Adrian Christy, chief executive of Table Tennis England, is delighted to be welcoming the Sport Welfare Officers into these key roles.

“We are all too aware of the catastrophic impact that occurs when the safeguarding and wellbeing of young people and adults across our sport system is compromised and we welcome the further investment to support our sport communities, particularly those working at local level,” he said.

“Great strides have been taken in recent years, but we are all too aware there is much more to be done, particularly in the area of prevention where the training of the safeguarding in sport community is critical.

“We very much look forward to working together with the Sport Welfare Officers to further strengthen our sector.”

For further information on the importance of safeguarding, please click on the link below to read a blog article from Jeremy Lemarchand, Head of Children & Young People at Sport England