02 RFU Safeguarding Policy Statement
03 CB and Club Responsibilities
05 Guidance and Best Practice
09 Photographic Images
10 Abuse and Poor Practice
13 How to deal with concerns
14 Dealing with Media Enquiries
Working Together to Safeguard Children (Department of Children, Schools and Families 2010) states that:
Everyone shares responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people, irrespective of individual roles. Nevertheless, in order that organisations and practitioners collaborate effectively, it is vital that all partners who work with children – including local authorities, the police, the health service, the courts, professionals, the voluntary sector and individual members of local communities – are aware of, and appreciate, the role that each of them play in this area.
This Toolkit is designed to assist Club Safeguarding Officers in their role. It should be read in conjunction with the RFU
Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults in Rugby Union Policy and Guidance RFU Regulations 15 and 21 all of which
can be found on rfu.com. The aim is to ensure that children and vulnerable adults experience and enjoy the game within
a safe environment. Clubs following this best practice guidance will create a rugby environment in which boys, girls and
vulnerable adults will have fun, achieve success and continue to participate in the sport.
The guidance provided in this toolkit is primarily aimed at rugby union events. However, it also applies to activities taking
place at clubs out of season.
Whilst this document has endeavoured to address the majority of issues that a club might face, it is impossible to cover
them all. When clubs are considering what steps to take in respect of matters not covered in this document they must
put the welfare of the child first and use common sense to determine the best course of action.
Everyone involved in Rugby in England, whether as a player, coach, referee, administrator, parent or spectator is expected to
uphold the Core Values of our sport.
TEAMWORK RESPECT ENJOYMENT DISCIPLINE SPORTSMANSHIP
- Play to win – but not at all costs.
- Win with dignity, lose with grace.
- Observe the Laws and regulations of the game.
- Respect opponents, referees and all participants.
- Reject cheating, discrimination, violence and drugs.
- Value volunteers and paid officials alike.
- Enjoy the game.
Rugby club and Constituent Body codes of conducts should encompass the Code of Rugby.
CODE OF RUGBY
The Rugby Football Union is committed to safeguarding the welfare of children and vulnerable adults in the
sport. All children and vulnerable adults are entitled to protection from harm and have the right to take part
in sport in a safe, positive and enjoyable environment.
The key principles on which this policy statement are based:
The welfare of the child or vulnerable adult
All participants regardless of age, gender, ability or
disability, race, faith, size, language or sexual identity,
have the right to protection from harm
All allegations and suspicions of harm will be
taken seriously and responded to swiftly, fairly
Everyone will work in partnership to promote the
welfare, health and development of children and
The interests of those who work or volunteer with
children and vulnerable adults will be protected
The full RFU Safeguarding Policy can be found at
RFU Regulation 21 – Safeguarding
Regulation 21 sets out how allegations of abuse are
dealt with and may be found at www.rfu.com/TheGame/
Definition of a child
“Child” means a person under the age of 18 years as
defined by the Children’s Act 2004. Children means more
than one child.
Definition of a vulnerable adult
“Vulnerable adult” means a vulnerable adult as defined
in Section 59 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups
Act 2006. In summary, vulnerable adults are defined
as someone 18 years or older with a dependency on
others, or a requirement for assistance for others, in
the performance of basic physical functions; severe
impairment in the ability to communicate with others,
or impairment in a persons ability to protect him or
herself from assault, abuse or neglect.
17 Year Old Males Playing in the Adult Game
RFU Regulation 15 states that a male player can, with written
parental consent, play in the adult game when he reaches
his 17th birthday, although not play in a front row position
until his 18th birthday. The form may be found at www.rfu.
com/AdultRugbyForm. Once completed and signed it must
be kept as a record of the decision. The only exception is for
players within the Elite England Rugby performance pathway,
whose playing development is managed through the England
A club’s management team must have assessed (prior
to any training or playing) and continue to assess, that
any 17 year old player playing in adult games or training
is both physically and emotionally capable of taking part.
Those responsible for the management of adult teams
which include 17 year olds, must at all times be mindful
of the 17 year old player’s safety and wellbeing and
ensure that a suitable adult from within the team and
management acts as a mentor.
If a 17 year old is playing rugby in accordance with
Regulation 15, while playing or training with the adults he is
treated as an adult. This includes showering and changing
facilities. It is advisable for a mentor to be appointed from
a member of the coaching team as someone for them to
turn to if there is any issue which causes them concern.
This person should be appropriately vetted in the usual
way. Once a player returns to U18 rugby he is once again
a child and the policies regarding children apply.
CB & CLUB
As set out in the Policy, the RFU as the governing body of the sport, has responsibility for the development
and management of the Safeguarding Policy and programme. Constituent Bodies are responsible for
implementing policy and practice within their member clubs. Each will appoint a CB Safeguarding Manager
(CBSM) who will co-ordinate their network of Club Safeguarding Officers (CSO). The CBSM will provide
support and advice to CSOs to enable them to carry out their role within their clubs. Further details of their
respective responsibilities are set out in the Policy.
Consent & Parental Responsibility
The RFU Safeguarding Policy assumes that both parents have
parental responsibility for their child. Clubs may also assume
that this is the case.
There may be a number of different issues for which parental
consent is required; consent to participate in the game, the
taking and publishing of any photographs or medical issues
are all examples of occasions when consent may be needed.
For example, when signing a registration form a parent
should be asked to sign the document, provide their full name
and their relationship to the child.
The question of parental responsibility may, very occasionally,
arise within children’s rugby. The issue is complex and if it
arises you are advised to contact the RFU Safeguarding team
for further guidance.
Recruitment and Supervision of Volunteers & Staff
A rugby club should be a safe, friendly and welcoming
environment where all staff and volunteers involved with
children and vulnerable adults should be suitable to work
with them. All reasonable steps must be taken to prevent
anyone who may pose a threat to children or vulnerable
adults from working with them. A thorough recruitment
process will help to identify those not suitable to work in
Criminal Records Bureau Disclosures
Volunteers and staff who work closely with children and
vulnerable adults are required to complete a CRB disclosure
application in accordance with RFU Regulation 21. A detailed
explanation of the application process is presented below.
Clubs must regularly risk assess their workforce to identify
those who are eligible for a CRB disclosure due to the
regular turnover of volunteers and staff. Please refer to
the CRB Eligibility Guidance available on rfu.com
Clubs need to recruit new members and volunteers in
order to grow but should consider asking for written or
verbal references for volunteers unknown to anyone at
the club. Where a role does not meet the strict CRB
eligibility criteria it is particularly important to request
references and follow these up for example a bar manager,
groundsman or committee member. If any aspect of a
reference raises concerns the club must inform the RFU
Safeguarding team so a full and objective risk assessment
can be undertaken.
Any vacancy advertised, locally or on-line, should indicate
that a CRB disclosure may be required if appropriate.
All new volunteers and new members of staff should be
made aware of the identity of club officials, in particular
the Club Safeguarding Officer (CSO). Club policies and
procedures on safeguarding issues should be brought to
their attention as well as any policies on health and safety,
kit, nutrition and training.
Training and Monitoring
An individual’s personal training needs should be identified
and progressed as soon as possible after their initial
deployment. It is strongly recommended that all adults who
have a coaching role for children and/or vulnerable adults
attend an appropriate Rugby Union Coaching Award course
and an RFU Play It Safe training course.
Once the RFU has received and approved the individual’s CRB
disclosure, their RugbyFirst record will be updated. Until such
a time, they must be supervised by another CRB checked
coach. An individual may have received their CRB disclosure
but the RFU Safeguarding team may be making further
enquiries about the information appearing on the disclosure;
until their RugbyFirst record indicates a CRB by way of a green
tick against their name, supervision is mandatory.
If an individual is helping with a training session it must
be within sight of a qualified and suitably vetted coach.
Sessions should always be conducted openly and visibly.
If training equipment (e.g. scrum machine or fitness
equipment) is used out of the sight of other coaches more
than one coach should be involved in this training session.
Planning should ensure that in an emergency levels of
supervision are upheld by an appropriate number of CRB
cleared and qualified individuals. Club managers should
also have plans or contingencies in place in respect of coach
absences so that basic supervision levels are maintained.
CRB Disclosure Process
Regulation 21 requires an individual working closely with
children or vulnerable adults to apply for a CRB disclosure
within 4 weeks of their appointment. The RFU does not
accept CRBs obtained through third parties, for example,
schools, local authorities or other sports governing
bodies. All staff and volunteers must renew their RFU CRB
disclosure every three years.
RugbyFirst membership records indicate the CRB status
of the individual, as shown below. Each CSO should
familiarise themselves with the club membership list
(including ‘pending’ members) and the reporting tool
which will allow them to support and manage their staff
and volunteer CRB clearance.
How to apply for CRB
There are two ways of applying for an RFU CRB check:
1. using the RFU’s online CRB e-Application system
2. on a paper application sent to the RFU
Full details on these two application systems can be found on
the RUSafe website, www.rfu.com/crbprocess or by contacting
the Safeguarding team.
In order to use the e-Application system a club must
have an appointed Club Safeguarding Officer registered
on RugbyFirst and have registered to use the system with
the Safeguarding team. In order for individuals to complete
an application they too must be registered with the club
on RugbyFirst. For further details or to register contact the
team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0208 831 7454.
Volunteers are not required to pay for their CRB application.
However, the CRB charge, currently £44, for staff; clubs
are required to pay the fee prior to the application being
processed by the RFU.
The RFU is a Registered Body, approved to process CRB
applications; the CRB conduct an annual audit of volunteers
to ensure that all appropriate payments are made. Inaccurate
reporting of volunteer status could result in the RFU having its
Registered Body status revoked.
The RFU has produced two NSPCC approved safeguarding
training courses. Both courses whilst non-assessed are
certificated by the RFU.
The Play It Safe course is aimed at all club volunteers
and staff in order to increase their level of knowledge
and awareness of best practice safeguarding principles
as well as how to recognise and report abuse and
concerns. CSOs must do this course prior to attending
the In Touch outlined below.
In Touch is designed to give CSOs the knowledge,
confidence and practical skills to implement the Policy
within their own club. It also outlines how to deal with
incidents and concerns that are reported to them in their
role. Regulation 21 requires all CSOs to complete this
course within 6 months of being appointed to their post.
The Best Practice Guidance in the Policy explains how to implement the Policy in a rugby club such as being a
good role model and sets out the recommended staff to participant ratio. Whilst the guidance is detailed, it is not
exhaustive, and local circumstances often require local solutions. There will always be unforeseen circumstances
where deviation is unavoidable; common sense should always prevail whilst always considering the needs of the
child or vulnerable adult.
If best practice is followed by staff and volunteers they will
be supported and protected as they carry out their roles.
Below are some additional considerations:
As a year round sport weather conditions present rugby
clubs with a range of considerations: extremes of heat,
sun, rain, frost and snow. It is the responsibility of the
club to risk assess environmental conditions both before
and during a game or training session. Conditions such
as frost and drought can result in a hard and dangerous
playing surface. Children should always be advised to wear
appropriate clothing for the season and all players should
be monitored to ensure their wellbeing throughout
All players should be encouraged to keep hydrated throughout
a session particularly during the warmer months.
Frequency of play
The RFU take overplaying and over commitment seriously,
especially where it relates to players under the age of 18.
Regulation 15 and its guidelines identify the parameters in
relation to the amount of time any player is playing or training.
Rugby is only part of a child’s development and should
always be balanced alongside other academic and sporting
Playing Kit and Equipment
IRB Law 4 details the definition of playing kit and also goes
on to regulate for any additional items of clothing including
pads, mits, medical support and mouthguards. It also goes
on to identify banned items of clothing such as jewellery,
sharp items and zips. Ultimately, it is the referee’s decision
to determine whether any item of the players’ clothing is
acceptable or not and his decision is final.
Names on shirts: there are no RFU regulations governing the
appearance of players’ names or nick names on their kit.
However, it is considered poor practice to do so as it allows
the child to be easily identified by those to whom the child is
Mouthguards: whilst the wearing of a mouthguard is not
mandatory, it is a recommendation that all age grade players
wear one. It is, however, mandatory in certain competitions
Studs and Blades: these must not be sharp or abrasive.
It is the referee’s decision as to whether or not a player’s
studs, or blades, are acceptable. It is advisable for players
to have boots with interchangeable studs so that they may
be replaced if they become worn or dangerous.
Goggles/glasses: players may not wear glasses whilst
playing. Only players up to and including under 12s age
group may wear specially designed and manufactured
sports goggles. Regulation 15 sets out the parameters
in detail. Contact lenses may be worn.
Hearing aids: whilst contrary to IRB Laws of the Game, the
RFU provide detailed guidance on the issue of hearing aids
and cochlear implants. This can be found at
Sponsorship: there are no RFU regulations governing
sponsor’s logos appearing on players clothing. However,
clubs should give consideration to the appropriateness
of the sponsor and their business being associated with
children’s teams. Please note that there are regulations
regarding the use of any RFU related logos, for example the
rose, and the use of any of these should be referred to the
RFU Sponsorship team.
Clubs which provide the opportunity for U6s, to participate in
rugby related activities need to ensure that they are aware of
the additional factors which should be taken into account.
Whilst all parents/guardians should be encouraged
to remain on the premises throughout a session it is
particularly important for those of this age group. Activities
should be located within easy reach of shelter and toilets.
A session should not exceed one hour and there should
be at least one break for refreshments. Adults should
be alert to the mental and physical capabilities of the
individual children involved and be prepared to adapt/
curtail sessions in the event that the children become tired
or lose concentration. Whilst all children will normally start
activities at the same time, their parents/guardians should
be instructed that they may withdraw them at any time
during the session. Where there is a wide range of children
they should be matched to activities according to age and
The format of any session should be designed to give
these children confidence in carrying out basic movement
skills, in the context of fair play, sharing and co-operation.
Children need to spend time learning how the game works
and its laws, so they become familiar and confident with
the game before joining those who are more experienced.
The group must be functionally separate from all other age
groups and no matches may be played between the children
and those of different clubs.
Managing challenging behaviour
There will be times when members of the paid and
volunteer workforce will have to deal with children or
vulnerable adults’ challenging behaviour. Strategies and
sanctions are suggested and those which are unacceptable
are also identified. Guidance on a range behavioural
conditions can also be found via the RFU’s ‘RUAble’
Autism, Aspergers, Dyspraxia, ADD and ADHD are being
more widely recognised and diagnosed and it is increasingly
possible that clubs will have children or vulnerable adults
affected by one or more amongst their players and members.
It should not be seen as a bar to playing rugby and indeed
competitive sports can often improve a child’s behaviour.
Clubs should do everything possible for children with these
conditions to be able to play rugby; listening to the parents
and learning from their experience is an important part
All players, volunteers and match officials are insured
under the RFU insurance for catastrophic injuries resulting
in death and permanent disability only. All coaches, match
officials and volunteers are covered for third party liability.
This is cover for the season, as set out in Regulation 11,
and includes touring subject to the prior permission of the
RFU. Any participation in competitive matches outside the
season requires the prior written consent of the RFU.
Cover only applies if the activity falls within the RFU Rules
and Regulations. Further information can be found at
Parents and players are encouraged to take out individual
personal insurance if they wish to be covered for less
The RFU takes the safety of all its participants very
seriously. It is however a contact sport and injuries will
occur. In order to try to reduce the number of injuries
to players the RFU monitors all injuries that require
admission to hospital. It does not include those who
attend an accident and emergency department and are
allowed home from there. The RFU Reportable Injury
Event Report is available at www.rfu.com/firstaid.
Websites are a key part of the daily operation of most clubs. They are probably the most flexible way to communicate with
members, and to anyone interested in joining a club. They also have the potential to be a very safe way to communicate with
children, given their wide accessibility.
However, in the same way that a club has responsibility for
the physical safety of a junior member when visiting the club’s
premises, that club must also ensure that there is nothing on
its website which could harm a child, directly or indirectly.
A club is legally and morally responsible for the content of
There are two key risks to guard against, abusive or
inappropriate content (photos, video or text), on the site
itself or on linked sites (including adverts, especially from
Google or other ‘sponsored links) and disclosing personal
information about a child to people accessing the website.
This could be the child’s name, address, or any information
about a child’s life, interests or activities which would help a
stranger target a child, or engage that child in conversation.
Another aspect of inappropriate content can be perceived as
bullying. This could be material on the site which criticises or
humiliates a child. It could also be information which places
undue pressure on the child to participate in some aspect of
a club’s activities.
Blogs are a type of content becoming commonplace on
websites. The creation of a blog is straightforward. It does not
require technical or design expertise, and it can be updated
Blogs present two particular challenges: a central part
of the attraction of a blog is that it is updated frequently.
However, the same risks apply to its content as apply to
all other content on the site. A club cannot distance itself
from the content of a blog it chooses to include on its site.
Further, blogs often contain a lot of opinion, as opposed to
purely factual information.
Many sites contain links to other sites. This could be for
commercial reasons, such as the sites of sponsors or
advertisers, or simply to communicate information to be
found on other websites. Before creating a link, a club should
check thoroughly the content of the other website, both for
child protection reasons, and to ensure the content poses no
other risk to the club’s reputation. Once a link is included on
the site, the club should check its content periodically, and
remove any link immediately if concerns arise.
Photos and video
Photos and video clips can make any child featured
vulnerable to grooming if information about the child
(name, address, activities or interests) is also disclosed.
Furthermore, posting an image on the website carries a
risk that the image could be taken and adapted for an
inappropriate use. For further guidance on photographs
see section on Photographic Images below.
Mobile and on-line communication with children
Technology is moving very fast in this area. There are now
many different ways for people to communicate. On-line
communication can be by email, instant messaging or social
The risks posed by such methods of communication arise
from a variety of issues: the privacy provided, the wide
range of content that can be transmitted, including content
of a violent, sexual or hateful nature, the ease with which
images can be forwarded onto others and the difficulty in
knowing truly who you are communicating with.
In sport, there are additional risks: inappropriate pressure
can be exerted by adults, particularly coaches, on children or
inappropriate criticism of a child’s performance. An official
position or role within a club, such as coach, can carry with
it a level of authority, and engender a level of trust, that
facilitates the control of a child.
Against this background, a club needs to establish rules
covering how adults connected with that club communicate
with children connected with that club.
It is therefore recommended that:
• When communicating by phone, where possible Club
Officials and coaches should speak to the parent of
• Club Officials and coaches should not communicate with
individual children by text or on-line at any time, on any
matter, unless there is an immediate risk to the welfare
of that child which can be lessened by such contact
• If a club needs to communicate club-related
information to children by email (such as training or
match details), it should use email groups comprising
email addresses given by parents. It is inadvisable
for a coach to communicate by email on a one-to-one
basis with a child; if replying to an email from a child
the parent should be copied in to the response
• Coaches and Club Officials should not communicate
with children through social networking sites such as
Facebook. Coaches should not be “friends” with the
children they coach and they should not comment on
their status as this can open a coach up to allegations
It is impossible to address every issue or cover
every scenario a club or coach might encounter when
communicating with children and it is appreciated that
different ages will need to be treated differently. However,
in all cases the above guidelines should be considered
when determining the most appropriate method of
communication in any given circumstances.
In order to address these issues it is recommended that
a club devise written policies which cover its own particular
circumstances, and meet its particular needs, then to ensure
the policies are followed fully and widely publicised.
The RFU positively encourages parents and spectators to take photographs of participants involved in rugby union to celebrate
the ethos and spirit of the sport.
However, once a photograph has been taken it is important to maintain control of it to avoid it being misused. Any
photograph (digital or printed) which is produced and released into the public domain may be misused by anyone as once
this has been done, control has been lost. In this day and age when it is so easy to upload or email a photograph within
seconds of it being taken, it is worth taking a moment to consider the issue of control.
Club Photographic Policy
Common sense should be used when clubs write their
photographic policy as it is not the intention of the RFU to
prevent photographs being taken for legitimate purposes.
Care should be taken when placing photographic images
on club websites and promotional material.
The key points are:
• Personal information which can lead to a child or
vulnerable adult being identified should never be used.
If it is necessary to name a child ensure you have
written parental consent and have informed the
parents as to how the image will be used. This is
particularly important when issuing press releases
and match reports
• Photographs should be of the activity or team, not on
• Clubs should ensure they obtain parental consent for
photographs to be taken whilst a child or vulnerable
adult is either at the club or away fixtures. This can
be done easily at the beginning of the season when
obtaining contact information and membership details
• Children and vulnerable adults must be appropriately
dressed when being photographed. It is never
acceptable to capture any images in changing rooms,
showers or at any time when players are dressing.
Images should be neither sexual, of an exploitative
nature nor open to misinterpretation or misuse
• Parents should be made aware if a film is being taken to
be used as a coaching aid. Clubs and CBs should ensure
that any footage will be carefully monitored and stored
• It is not an offence to take photographs in a public
place. On privately owned or leased land it is the owner
who may regulate whether or not photographs may
be taken. Clubs must have their own photographic
policy appropriate for their own specific needs and
• When clubs meet for fixtures/festivals it is
recommended that confirmation is obtained from each
club that parental permission has been given for all the
children or vulnerable adults participating. If there is
a child who is the subject of a court order who should
therefore not have their photograph taken, this should
be addressed before the event
• Parents should be aware that they may be asked to
register their intention to take photographs
Commissioning Professional Photographers
& the Local Media
If the club commissions professional photographers or invites
the press to cover an activity, ensure everyone is clear about
each other’s expectations. The key is to plan ahead and
communicate early on. Clubs and CBs should:
• Ensure that the photographer has been appropriately
vetted prior to the event
• Provide a clear brief about what is considered appropriate
in terms of content and behaviour
• Inform them of the club’s commitment to safeguarding
children and vulnerable adults. Establish who will hold
the recorded images and what they intend to do with
• Issue the professional photographer with identification,
which must be worn at all times
Recognising abuse, bullying and poor practice
It is important to recognise the signs and indicators of abuse and to be aware of how it should be dealt with.
A child or vulnerable adult may be being abused or bullied
• change their usual routine;
• begin to be disruptive during sessions;
• become withdrawn anxious or lacking in confidence;
• have possessions going missing;
• become aggressive or unreasonable;
• start stammering or stop communicating;
• have unexplained cuts or bruises;
• start bullying other children;
• are frequently dirty, hungry or inadequately dressed;
• display sexual behaviour inappropriate for their age;
• seem afraid of parents or carers;
• do not want to attend training or club activities,
or even leave the club;
• stop eating;
• are frightened to say what’s wrong.
One of these signs on its own is very unlikely to be an
indicator of abuse. However, cumulatively they should be
taken seriously. Members of the staff and volunteers need
to be aware of these possible signs and always report any
concerns to the CSO.
Types of abuse
There are four main types of abuse: physical, sexual,
emotional and neglect.
An individual may abuse or neglect a child or vulnerable adult
directly or may be responsible for abuse by failing to prevent
another person harming that child or vulnerable adult.
The categories of abuse detailed above refer to both children
and vulnerable adults; the terminology used in respect of
vulnerable adults can vary somewhat from that used for
children but in essence is very similar. There is however an
additional category recognised in respect of vulnerable adults,
that of ‘financial and material abuse’. This refers to theft,
fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property
or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or
misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing,
poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating,
or otherwise causing physical harm to a child or
Examples of physical abuse in sport include extreme
physical punishments; forcing a child or vulnerable adult
into training and competition that exceeds the capacity
of his or her immature and growing body or limitations
of a disability; assaulting a person; or where the child
(or vulnerable adult) is given drugs to enhance
performance or in the case of a child, delay puberty.
Sexual abuse involves forcing a child or vulnerable adult to
take part in sexual activities, which may involve inappropriate
touching, penetrative or non-penetrative sexual acts. They
may include non-contact activities, such as involving children
or vulnerable adults in looking at, or in the production of,
sexual photographic or online images, watching sexual
activities, or encouraging children or vulnerable adults to
behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Emotional abuse is the persistent maltreatment of a child
or vulnerable adult such as to cause severe and persistent
adverse effects on their development. It may involve
conveying to children or vulnerable adults that they are
worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as
they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or
developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed.
These may include interactions that are beyond the child
or vulnerable adult’s developmental capability, as well as
overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning,
or preventing them from participating in normal social
Emotional abuse may involve a child seeing or hearing the
ill-treatment of another as well as serious bullying, causing
children or vulnerable adults to feel frightened or in danger,
or the exploitation or corruption of children or vulnerable
adults. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types
of maltreatment of a child or vulnerable adult, though it may
also occur alone.
Examples of emotional abuse in sport include subjecting
children to constant criticism, name-calling, and sarcasm
or bullying. It could also include their regular exclusion from
an activity, non-selection for a team, failing to rotate squad
positions or more subtle actions such as staring at or ignoring
a child or vulnerable adult. Putting players under consistent
pressure to perform to unrealistically high standards is also a
form of emotional abuse.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child or
vulnerable adult’s basic physical and/or psychological
needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of their
health or development. Neglect may involve a parent failing
to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including
exclusion from home or abandonment), failing to protect a
child or vulnerable adult from physical and emotional harm
or danger, or to ensure adequate supervision (including
the use of inadequate care-givers) or to ensure access to
appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include
neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child or vulnerable
adult’s basic emotional needs.
Examples of neglect in sport could include: not ensuring
children are safe; exposing them to undue cold or heat
or unsuitable weather conditions, or exposing them to
unnecessary risk of injury.
Bullying is often considered to be a fifth type of abuse but
when it does occur it usually has elements of one or more
of the four categories identified. The bully can be a parent
who pushes too hard, a coach or manager with a ‘win at all
costs’ attitude or another intimidating child. It should also
be recognised that bullying can take place in the virtual
world of social networking sites, emails or text messages.
If bullying does occur it should not be ignored and the victim
should be supported through what can be a traumatic
experience. Bullying will not just go away.
Bullying takes many forms but ultimately it is the perception
of the victim that determines whether or not they are being
bullied and not the intention of the bully.
There are opportunities to bully at any rugby club or activity.
It is the way that incidences are dealt with which makes
the difference between life being tolerable or becoming a
misery for the victim. Bullies can be very cunning and develop
strategies to avoid it being seen by anyone but the victim.
Incidents of poor practice arise when the needs of children
and vulnerable adults are not afforded the necessary priority,
compromising their wellbeing. Poor practice can easily turn
into abuse if it is not dealt with as soon as concerns are
raised or reported.
Examples of poor practice may be shouting, excessive
training, creation of intra-club ‘elite squads’, ridicule of
players’ errors, ignoring health and safety guidelines
and failing to adhere to the club’s code of conduct.
Positions of Trust
Everyone working with children and vulnerable adults is in a
‘position of trust’ with power and influence, invested in them
by the parents, the organisation deploying them, and the child
or vulnerable adult.
No-one in a position of trust should encourage a physical
or emotionally dependant relationship to develop between
themselves and the child/vulnerable adult in their care.
If there is an additional competitive aspect to the activity,
and the person in a position of trust is responsible to some
extent for the child/vulnerable adult’s success or failure, their
dependency on the individual will be significantly increased.
This may include elite teams at club, CB (ie School of Rugby),
Academy and national level.
In sport, there have been examples of individuals using
their position of power to gain access to children or
vulnerable adults, win their trust and abuse that trust
for inappropriate or illegal purposes.
Sexual intercourse, sexual activity, or inappropriate touching
by an adult with a child under the age of 16 years is a criminal
offence, even where there is apparent consent from the child.
A consensual sexual relationship between an adult in
a position of trust (eg. a coach or someone involved in
Regulated Activity) and a child over 16 years of age is contrary
to this Policy as it is a breach of that position of trust and an
abuse of their position. Whilst this may not be an offence
in terms of criminal law (unless occurring in an educational
setting) in a rugby union setting it will be treated with the
utmost seriousness and may result in RFU disciplinary action,
including a suspension from attending rugby clubs. Such a
breach of trust involving a ‘vulnerable adult’ may also result in
Adults sending inappropriate and/or sexually provocative
messages or images by text, web-cam or other electronic
media to children is a breach of this Policy, and may be a
A child may suffer sexual abuse or sexually harmful
behaviour from another child or children. A ‘position of
trust’ applies to children who take on a leadership role
as well as to adults in the sport.
HOW TO DEAL
The RFU’s aim is to create a culture where everyone feels confident to raise concerns without prejudice to their own position.
Anyone with concerns about the behaviour of a coach, official, volunteer, administrator, professional staff or any other member
of the paid and volunteer workforce which may be harmful to the child or vulnerable adult in their care must report them in
accordance with the RFU Safeguarding Policy.
If you have witnessed or heard about an incident which
concerns you, it is important to report it to someone in
authority, in the first instance to the Club Safeguarding
Officer (CSO). In their absence the Constituent Body
Safeguarding Manager (CBSM) or RFU Safeguarding team.
• stay calm, but don’t delay
• re-assure the child or vulnerable adult that they
are not to blame
• do not make any promises of confidentiality or outcome
• keep questions to a minimum
• make brief accurate notes at the earliest opportunity
If a vulnerable adult is at risk of abuse or discloses
information, their consent to the statutory agencies being
contacted should be obtained if possible before doing so.
The RFU Safeguarding Incident Form, which can be
found on rfu.com, is the most appropriate way to report
any concerns. It is best completed by the CSO with the
assistance of the parents/victim/witnesses as appropriate.
It is also extremely useful if a “cast list” is supplied to
the RFU Safeguarding Team to enable the team to fully
understand the whole scenario as well as the names and
roles of those involved.
The RFU, when dealing with a serious incident, will
immediately notify the local statutory agencies (Police/
Social Care/Children’s Services/Local Safeguarding
Children Boards) and continue to work in partnership
with them throughout any investigations.
Any internal RFU investigation will only commence once the
statutory agencies have completed their investigations and
referred the case back to the RFU. The wellbeing of the
child must be central to any procedures involving them.
Once the RFU has completed its investigations in accordance
with Regulation 21 and decided on the appropriate action
to be taken it will then consider referring the individual to
the Independent Safeguarding Authority in line with its legal
If you are unsure how to deal with any incident please do
feel free to contact the RFU Safeguarding Team to discuss
the appropriate course of action.
Referral Management Group
When an incident is referred the RFU Safeguarding Team
will collect further information as required – for example
the individual’s account of an incident, witness statements,
probation reports and club references for consideration by
the RMG or it’s Sub-Group.
The Referral Management Group (RMG) is a crossdepartmental
group which allows a variety of divergent
opinions to be heard when considering incidents referred
to the RFU by clubs, parents or statutory agencies.
In more serious cases the RMG considers the information
available, possibly after an investigation, and may recommend
to the RFU Legal Officer that a Temporary Suspension Orders
should be issued. It is the Legal Officers decision to issue
such an order.
The RMG or its Sub-Group also makes the recruitment
decision when an individual’s CRB certificate is received.
When making the recruitment decision based on an
individual’s CRB certificate a number of different
factors are taken into account: rehabilitation since
the conviction, age of the individual at the time of the
incident, the sanction received, the type of incident (eg
domestic violence, road rage, neighbourhood disputes),
the offenders attitude to the disposal, the time since
the incident occurred and any non-conviction information
provided which may indicate Police concerns.
RFU Safeguarding Executive should be contacted on
0208 831 7479
Or 24 Hour Helpline on 0208 831 6655
Child abuse is an issue which will generate media interest.
The RFU can help you handle media enquiries and have experience in helping clubs and Constituent Bodies deal with
these difficult issues. However, it is important that you handle initial enquiries in a way that will not aggravate the
situation or generate negative publicity. It is also important to be aware of legislation that prevents the naming of children
and young people in the media. The RFU is committed to investigating all allegations, but the potential damage the
publication of false allegations can do to an individual or club must not be underestimated.
• Each Constituent Body or Club should have a press officer
or representative who acts as a single point of contact for
• If you know of an allegation of child abuse it is important
to be prepared in advance for potential publicity.
• Contact the relevant RFU Regional Press Officer (RPO)
for your area or the Community Rugby Media Manager
and give them all the facts. A current contact list is on
the RFU website.
• Don’t hide anything or pretend the situation is not as
serious as it is or might become. The press can put
a large headline on even the smallest story and it is
important that the RPO is aware of all the details.
• What to do when approached or contacted by a journalist.
• A journalist may hear of an alleged case of abuse from
a source or directly from a relative or acquaintance of
the alleged victim.
• They are likely to approach a club, constituent body,
coach or official and ask for their response. It is worth
remembering that the journalist may already have the
story mapped out in their own mind so what you say is
• Make sure you make a note of the name of the journalist
and the media they are working for.
• Make sure you fully understand what the journalist is
asking you. Ask them to repeat a question if necessary.
You may or may not be aware of the incident concerned.
• Do not say ‘No comment’. It makes you sound as if you
have something to hide.
• Instead take a contact number and find out when their
deadline is, then contact the RPO for your area and
discuss the matter.
• The RPO will work with the RFU Safeguarding team to
formulate an appropriate response, will respond to the
journalist and inform you of that response.
The follow-up Allegations of child abuse are rarely one-day stories so be prepared for more phone calls and media enquiries. Just
because one response has been given does not mean that the media will not have more questions in the future.
Follow the same procedure as before and contact your
Going ‘off the record’
Journalists like nothing better than going ‘off the record’.
They use this tool to get more information but with the
undertaking that they will not publish what you say. Do not
speak off the record in any situation involving safeguarding
Whilst this document has endeavoured to address the majority of issues that a club might face, it is impossible to cover them all.
When clubs are considering what steps to take in respect of matters not covered in this document they must put the welfare of
the child first and use common sense to determine the best course of action.
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Contact details and further information
All RFU regulations can be found on the website at www.rfu.com/TheGame/Regulations