Wednesday 28 February 2024, 10:30

Ground-breaking safeguarding programme delivered at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024 Dubai™

  • The initiative was delivered at the tournament – in which 16 teams competed for glory

  • It was fully implemented in a senior men’s tournament for the first time

  • The ongoing commitment from FIFA aims to spread awareness that no-one is immune from abuse, with safeguarding critical at all levels of the game

Safeguarding in tournament football took another step forward during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024 Dubai™ with players benefitting from the support of a comprehensive suite of safe sporting environment initiatives throughout the tournament, which concluded on Sunday after eleven thrilling days on the sand. It was a historical moment for FIFA, as it was the first time it has been fully implemented in a senior men’s tournament: an important milestone that continue challenging the stereotype that senior male professional football players are not at a high risk to be subject to harassment, abuse or exploitation.

“The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2024 marks a pivotal moment for FIFA's Safeguarding and Child Protection Department as the first senior men’s tournament with dedicated measures in place,” said Lucy Cunningham, FIFA Senior Event Safeguarding Manager. “This milestone is crucial in challenging stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding safeguarding in sport.” She continued: “FIFA acknowledges that harassment and abuse in sports are global issues, affecting every country and sport at all levels. Breaking through the misconception that safeguarding concerns only children or women, this tournament underscores the reality that it's imperative to address these issues comprehensively, even in men's senior competitions, fostering a culture of awareness and prevention across the sporting spectrum.”

Safeguarding is the process of proactive action to protect people from harm or abuse through appropriate prevention and response measures. It promotes their well-being and protects their rights. Specifically, it includes identifying and addressing risks and having appropriate systems in place to adequately address and respond to concerns. A statutory commitment, FIFA’s event safeguarding programme developed after FIFA Guardians™ Safeguarding in Sport was launched, an initiative to assist FIFA Member Associations to introduce stronger safeguarding measures in football to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone across the game. Event safeguarding forms a key part of the remit of the Safeguarding and Child Protection Department and is being expanded across FIFA’s activities – starting with its competitions. The programme debuted in 2022 with the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica™. Since then, it has been implemented at three further underage FIFA tournaments and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.

The programme ensures the protection of all stakeholders involved in the competition, including players, throughout the tournament by a range of measures including:

  • Thorough risk assessments pre-competition

  • Educational workshops targeting different groups such as volunteers, team liaison officers, and players

  • Addressing potential barriers such as unawareness of reporting systems

  • The appointment of mandatory Team Safeguarding & Welfare Officers within each delegation

  • Awareness materials and face-to-face interactions

  • Education and materials at Team Arrival Meetings

“FIFA's commitment to safeguarding at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2024 involves a proactive, victim-centric approach,” added Cunningham. “We prioritise face-to-face engagement with teams, referees, staff, and volunteers to build trust in our reporting systems. Establishing personal connections has proven crucial, as evidenced by a strong trend to this date specifically in our competitions where individuals have shown they are more likely to report incidents in person rather than through anonymous channels.” “This emphasis on human-level engagement with competition stakeholders has successfully broken-down barriers to reporting, highlighting the importance of direct, interpersonal relationships in ensuring a safe and secure event environment.” Avenues for reporting remain open following the conclusion of the tournament, allowing individuals to contact and FIFA with concerns.