- Joyce Cook gives insight into FIFA Guardians
- FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer discusses commitment to safeguarding
- Cook outlines process and future plans
In 2018, FIFA and several key stakeholders established an expert working group to assist with the development of a FIFA child safeguarding programme. The working group includes child safeguarding and protection specialists from the Council of Europe, UNICEF, Safe Sport International, and safeguarding managers from Member Associations (MAs) and confederations.
The launch of the FIFA child safeguarding programme and toolkit, which will be supported by a series of training modules and workshops around the world for MAs, is part of an initiative aimed at providing practical guidance to help members consider how they can review existing safeguarding measures, to help prevent any risk of harm to children in football and to appropriately respond to any relevant issues.
In her role as FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer Joyce Cook will be spearheading the FIFA Guardians™ programme, and she explains why this is such a key endeavour, and why it is “Up to Us”.
What is the drive behind FIFA launching this new initiative?
The experts and the survivors tell you exactly why I have the passion I personally feel, that my President, my Secretary General, that my colleagues all feel. You cannot work with these people and not feel that passion and understand very well why it’s so important. We also understand very well that we want to grow the game, and that comes a great responsibility to make sure children can take part safely. It’s easy to be passionate about this but we really take this seriously. We are totally committed.
Why is the focus starting with children?
We turned to our experts and asked for their guidance. This is the start of our safeguarding programme and what we took on board very clearly was that it was important to start with children. The foundations of safeguarding run through the toolkit and programme in any case, but we will be following this up and launching modules and components that are specific to vulnerable adults within the game as well.
How are you approaching engaging the Member Associations?
This is an initiative by new FIFA that aims to assist our members and engage them in a positive way. This is a scary topic, let’s be clear about this. This is something that people feel deeply uncomfortable about, so our job is to support our members as best we can. We’re going to help our members not only prevent but to react in the appropriate way with the expert agencies on the ground. We understand this isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s going to be a journey.
How are you encouraging MAs to engage with the FIFA Guardians initiative?
We deliberately embedded it into the FIFA Forward Development Programme. This programme invests a large amount in sports globally, so for every project that is funded by the Forward programme, a requirement and obligation of the member association is to embed safeguarding. This is a very effective way to make that happen. They’ve embraced it very positively but what we need to do is to make sure that we help them be the guardians.
What are the next steps forward?
This is just the start. Over the next few months we will be rolling out workshops to raise awareness. The President and Secretary General are totally and utterly committed and to have that backing has been vitally important. Our first step is to ensure that all our presidents and secretary generals of the 211 Member Associations are brought into this and committed. Secondly, we are going to be developing and rolling out training modules for coaches and so on. The other thing we’re going to be doing is ensure we continue to build a network on the ground. When our members are asking, we can connect them with their local expert agencies, NGOs and statutory authorities, which is critically important.