Code of Ethics and Sport – Fair Play and the Protection of Children and Young People

The Notion of Fair Play

The notion of fair play is something which is integral to all sports regardless of what level of the sport is being participated in. It can range from the participants on the pitch to the fans and is something that is continually promoted by both World and National Governing Bodies of a particular sport. For example the fair play campaign run by the World Governing Body of Football FIFA is one of the most long standing and successful campaigns in the world of sport.

Not only is fair play important within the context of playing the actual sport but it is imperative then when dealing with children and young people entering into a possible career in sport they are treated fairly and gain enjoyment from the sport not being used simply as a means to an end.

The Unicef Code of Sports Ethics

What is the Unicef Code of Sports Ethics?

The main principle of the Code of Sports Ethics is to ensure that ethical considerations leading to fair play are integral elements of sports activity, sports policy and management – not simply optional elements. It must apply to all levels of ability and commitment which includes recreational as well as competitive sport.

The primary focus of the Cod is Fair Play for children and young people as it is recognised that children and young people of today are the adult participants and sporting stars of tomorrow. The Code is directly aimed at the institutions and adults who have a direct or indirect influence on young people’s participation and involvement in sport at all levels.

What is meant by Fair Play?

Fair play is not simply playing within the rules of a particular sport it is defined as much more than that. It is taken to incorporate the concepts of friendship, respect for others and playing the game within the right spirit.

Fair play incorporates issues concerned with the elimination of cheating, gamesmanship, doping, violence, sexual harassment and abuse of children, exploitation, unequal opportunities, excessive commercialization and corruption.

What does the Code of Sports Ethics say?

The Code of Sports Ethics ensures that fair play must be given the highest priority by all of those parties who are directly or indirectly involved with sport or who influence and promote sporting experiences for children and young people. The following parties therefore fall with the scope of the Code:

  • Governments
  • Sports and Sports Related Organisations
  • Individuals

Governments have the following responsibilities under the Code of Sports Ethics:

  • To ensure that they encourage the adoption of high ethical standards in all aspects of society in which sport operates
  • To both stimulate and support organisations and individuals who have demonstrated sound ethical principles in their work within sport
  • To encourage the education industry to promote both sport and fair play as a central part of the national physical education curriculum
  • To support and introduce initiatives aimed at promoting fair play in sport amongst children and young people
  • To encourage institutions to place fair play as a central priority in their work
  • To encourage research on both a national and international scale in order to improve understanding of the complex issues surrounding young people’s involvement in sport. This research must go some way to identify the extent of poor behaviour and the opportunities for promoting fair play in sport
  • Sports and Sports Related Organisations
  • Sports and Sports related organisations have responsibilities both in order to set a proper context for Fair Play and when working directly with young people.
  • Sports and sports related organisations have the following responsibilities in order to set a proper context for fair play:
  • To publish clear guidelines on what is to be considered appropriate behaviour and ensure that they are adhered to at all levels of participation and involvement in sport
  • To establish appropriate incentives to comply with the guidelines must also be developed as must the required sanctions for breach of the guidelines
  • To ensure that decisions are made in accordance with the Code of Ethics
  • To increase awareness of fair play through the use of campaigns, awards, educational material and training opportunities
  • To create rewards schemes for fair play and high levels of personal achievement within this sphere
  • When working with young people sports and sports related organisations have the following responsibilities:
  • To ensure that the structure of competition acknowledges the special requirements of the young and growing child and provides the opportunity for graded levels of involvement
  • To support the modification of the rules to meet the special needs of the young putting the emphasis on fair play over and above competitive success
  • To ensure that safeguards are in place to protect children, young people and women from sexual harassment and abuse and also to prevent the exploitation of children – this is particularly relevant to those who demonstrate a high level of ability
  • To ensure that all those within or associated with the organisation who have a responsibility towards children are appropriately qualified to work at that level

Individuals involved with sport at any level have the following responsibilities both in relation to their personal behaviour and when working directly with children or young people.

In relation to their own personal behaviour individuals have the following responsibilities:

  • To behave in a way which sets a good example and presents a positive role model for children and young people. Fair play must be condoned in this capacity
  • To ensure that their own level of training and qualification is appropriate to the needs of the child as they progress through different levels of sporting commitment

When working directly with children or young people individuals shall have the following responsibilities:

  • To put the health, safety and welfare of the child as the first priority
  • To provide a sporting experience which encourages a life-long commitment to the sport
  • To avoid placing expectations on a child unrelated to his or her capacity to meet them
  • To place the enjoyment of the child as a top priority and to not place undue influence and pressure on them which exploits their ability to choose to participate in the sport
  • To provide the child or young person and their family with as much detailed information as possible ensuring full awareness of the potential risks and attractions or reaching a high level of performance