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Online safety for sports administrators

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Online safety for sports administrators
Online safety for sports administrators

Administrators of sport organisations are responsible for making sure everyone involved is safe and enjoys their sport – while competing, training and interacting with fans and spectators. 

It’s important to be aware that abuse such as bullying, harassment, racism and sexism can happen online as well as in-person at sport, following people at all times of the day and night wherever they go. That’s because people are online every day as part of their sport. Coaches record videos for training, team managers use apps to organise players, squads are on group chats, clubs manage member data and players share photos on social media. 

Take a look at the advice on this page to find out how you can best manage online safety at your sport and learn how to deal with online issues or risks.

On this page:

How to deal with online abuse

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Just like you would take action over poor in-person conduct, sports administrators should also act quickly to address online abuse. Experiencing online abuse can have a serious impact on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, so understanding how to recognise different types of online abuse can help you learn how to deal with each situation appropriately.

You could be faced with a range of situations which vary according to the type of abuse, the person targeted, the person responsible and the platform. Unlike in-person conduct issues in sport, it’s not always possible to identify the person responsible for online harm. It’s important to still support the targeted member.

If a member is targeted by online abuse:

Act in a timely way.

Refer to sport policies and involve appropriate staff or volunteers.

Follow the steps to help them report serious online abuse:

You may also make the report on their behalf, if the member has said it is OK to do so.

Find more detailed advice on How to deal with online abuse in sport if this happens to a targeted member in your sport.

You may also need to take follow-up actions, such as:

  • recording details of the incident and actions taken, according to your club and sport policies
  • making sure to monitor and check the abuse has stopped, and the person targeted feels safe and supported. 
  • communicating and reinforcing positive online values with all members.

How to prepare your sport

Online abuse can be a risk to your members and organisation, negatively impacting the wellbeing of individuals and the culture within your sport. That can stop people joining or staying involved.

Sport administrators can take proactive steps to manage online safety and safeguard everyone involved. 

These steps relate to:

  • online environments
  • policies and procedures
  • responsibility
  • positive culture
  • setting up for safety
  • education, communication and reinforcement.

  1. Online environments

    Understand your online settings and how members are online as part of your sport. It can be much broader than you think. Discuss the following questions:

    • Which members are online as part of our sport? This could include volunteers, players, coaches, officials, parents, supporters and spectators.
    • Which platforms and technologies are directly managed by our club? For example, a website, social media accounts, membership and event portals, and sport science and fitness apps.
    • Which platforms and technologies are used for our sport? For example, a team manager using group chats, players on social media, coaches videoing on mobile phones, and parents taking photos. Also consider that non-members and unknown people can interact with your organisations and members online.

    Make online safety reviews a part of your risk management. Discuss the following questions:

    • What are the benefits of being online in our sport? For example, to share news, build culture, communicate easily, connect members.
    • What are the risks of our being online to the club and members? For example, teasing, bullying, harassment, cyberstalking, sharing nudes without consent and child grooming – learn how to recognise online abuse in sport.
    • Who can be the target of online abuse in our sport? Anyone involved in your sport!
    • Are any of our members at greater risk of online abuse? For example young people, referees and umpires, high-profile competitors, and those who identify as LGBTIQ+, First Nations, or have a disability. 
    • Who can be responsible for online abuse? This can be sport members, non-members or unknown sources.
    • What are the potential impacts of online abuse in our sport? Online abuse can have immediate and long terms impacts on the person targeted and others who witness it. Apart from affecting mental and physical wellbeing, it can stop people joining or staying with their sport or club.

  2. Policies and procedures

    Most Australian sport organisations have policies related to online safety. Each will be different, so check what’s already in place within your sport. Online safety is usually covered across several policies including codes of conduct, integrity, member protection, child safeguarding, social media, privacy and complaints handling. 

    Some of the areas that policies should address include:

    • commitment to online safety
    • types of online abuse and prohibited conduct
    • expectations of members engaging online for sport-related purposes
    • online communication with children and young people
    • how to report online harm
    • use of cameras and recording devices
    • use and storage of personal information, photos and videos
    • use of the organisation’s name and logo.

  3. Responsibility

    Online safety crosses over many operational areas of sport organisations. It can include staff and volunteers who look after complaints, member protection, membership, coaching and communications. Assign a person or group to be responsible for managing online safety. 

    Consider either:

    • appointing an online safety leader or working group or
    • making online safety part of an existing role, such as Member Protection Information Officer.

    They can be responsible for:

    • championing online safety
    • leading governance and policy 
    • running training and education sessions
    • managing online platforms and technologies
    • being a contact point for reporting online harm.

  4. Positive culture

    Take active steps to build positive online culture in your sport. Here are some ideas:

    • Encourage reporting – inform members how to report online abuse and support those who raise concerns.
    • Communicate – talk to members about respectful and safe online conduct.
    • Act – deal with inappropriate conduct early and enforce policies.
    • Build knowledge – make online safety education part of training and inductions.
    • Listen to members – this will help you identify where, when and why online abuse may happen and provide ideas on how to prevent it. 

  5. Setting up for safety

    Sport organisations typically manage a range of digital platforms, services and technologies. While you can’t control the broader conversations online, you can manage your own platforms and services for optimal safety. 

    Check your sport policies first. They may outline requirements in important areas such as authorised platforms and services, consent, privacy and communicating with children and young people. 

    Consider these additional tips:

    Management

    Safety

    • Assess risks before introducing new online platforms, services or technologies.
    • Use platforms and services with high safety, privacy and security standards.
    • Regularly review platform and service safety and privacy settings, community guidelines and terms of use. Check out The eSafety Guide for information on how to do this for different apps, games, social media and other online platforms.

    Moderation

    • Set up a process to monitor and moderate content. 
    • Create and enforce guidelines for acceptable content. 
    • Use tools to block, mute or remove abusive content.
    • If you allow public comments, define what you consider abusive and how to deal with it.
    • Consider turning off comments and the ability to share posts.

    Content

    • Content should be positive and professional – think twice before posting.
    • Confidential or privileged information should never be posted, shared or published.
    • Never post member information (including names, videos, photos) without their consent.
    • If approached by a member with concerns about content, deal with it promptly. 

    You can also follow our general advice on how to set up safe online practices for sport, covering communications and managing photos and videos.


  6. Educate, communicate and reinforce

    Building online safety skills and knowledge in your sport is important.

    Be proactive and communicate simple messages to members regularly. Don’t wait until something goes wrong. 

    • Talk to members about online values, your policies, how to reach out for support and how to report abuse.
    • When communicating, consider the experiences of everyone involved, including competitors, coaches, officials, leaders, volunteers and staff, club members, supporters and spectators.
    • Make sure people in key online safety related roles – such as those who look after communications, athlete welfare, member safety and complaints – receive online safety education tailored to their roles. TIP: Check what’s already in place within your sport – some Australian sport organisations have education programs.

    Communication opportunities

    Official communication channels: Share simple online safety messages and reporting information via your newsletters, social media, messaging app, website and noticeboards.

    Face-to-face events: Make opportunities to talk about online safety whenever you get people together – on game days and at training, camps, award ceremonies, meetings and social events.

    For example, at a talent camp for young players, set aside time to discuss online safety. Talk with the players about online issues, expectations, your policies and how they can report online abuse. Ask them about issues they might encounter and their ideas for improving online safety. 

    Another example is adding online safety to the agenda of a coaching meeting. Discuss your online policies and how to report online harm. Go into detail about important issues such as appropriate online communication between coaches and young people. Ask the coaches about issues they may have and how they could be better addressed.

    Dedicated online safety training: Hold training for specific groups such as coaches or athletes. You could do this as part of existing meetings, inductions, or camps.

    eSafety also offers training:

    Online safety events: Assign a round, event, week or day to online safety. During the lead up and on the day, share simple messages about positive online conduct and zero tolerance to online abuse.

Join with eSafety

eSafety is here to help Australians stay safe online. Keep in touch with us for ideas, resources and support:

Calling out online harm

When a member is targeted by online harm, sport organisations may want to speak out publicly on the issue. It can be a good idea to publish a statement of solidarity and zero tolerance for online abuse. 

However, it may be best to avoid:

  • making a public statement without talking to the person who has been targeted – any decisions should involve the person and ensure the situation is not made worse for them 
  • hitting back online – this response can bring attention to what’s been posted or shared, making it spread and encouraging trolling and pile-ons.

Be aware that in some circumstances even responding by posting positive messages about the member may bring them back into the spotlight and escalate the abuse.

  • Consider turning off or limiting comments on official accounts and helping the person targeted manage the settings on their personal accounts and devices.  
  • Take other proactive steps to communicate about positive online conduct without highlighting the specific incident. You could even share links to eSafety Sport

Online safety examples for sport administrators

Click on the + symbol to find out what to do and how to deal with each situation.

As the comment was written by a member of the club, you need to follow sport policies and involve the appropriate sport organisation staff and volunteers. 

Depending on the policies, it’s important to think about:

  • discussing the matter with the member responsible for the abuse
  • removing the content
  • sanctions under sport policies, if appropriate.

Make sure to record the incident according to your club and sport policies. Communicate and reinforce positive online values with all members. 

In this case, the person targeted is a member, but the person responsible for the abuse is unknown. 

  • Support and reassure the official – let them know the club is here to help.
  • Follow your relevant sport policies, such as member protection. 
  • Involve appropriate sport organisation staff and volunteers to help manage the situation.
  • Ask the official if they would like the organisation to act on their behalf.
  • Advise the official not to respond to the abuse, but to collect evidence and store it in a file where they don’t have to keep seeing it if it’s upsetting them – this is important proof if they decide to report it to the online platform or service or to eSafety. You can show them eSafety’s pages on how to screenshot on a on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android device

In line with your policies, discuss what the official would like to happen next. This could include one or more options:

  • Report the harmful content to the service used to send the messages. If the service doesn’t help, and the abuse is very serious, the official can make a report to eSafety.
  • Stop contact and tighten security. Let the member know they can use in-app functions to mute, ignore or hide the account. After they have collected evidence and reported the abuse, they can also delete the messages and block the other account. It’s a good idea for them to review their security and privacy settings too – there’s information in The eSafety Guide on how to do this for different apps, games and social media.
  • Get more help. The official might feel overwhelmed or distressed by this experience. Share with them eSafety’s advice on how to manage the impacts of adult cyber abuse. You can also offer information around counselling and support services that can help them.

Follow-up actions may also be required:

  • Record details of the incident and actions taken, according to your club and sport policies.
  • Make sure to monitor and check the abuse has stopped, and the official feels safe and supported. 
  • Communicate and reinforce positive online values with all members.

As the comments are written by members of the club about another member, you need to follow sport policies and involve the appropriate sport organisation staff and volunteers. 

  • Help the parents support and reassure the young person – let them know the club is here to help.
  • Follow your relevant sport policies, such as codes of conduct, member protection and child safeguarding. 
  • Involve appropriate sport organisation staff and volunteers to help manage the situation.
  • Advise the young person and parents not to respond to the abuse, but to collect evidence and store it in a file where they don’t have to keep seeing it if it’s upsetting them – this is important proof if they decide to report it to the online platform or service or to eSafety. You can show them eSafety’s pages on how to screenshot on a on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android device

In line with your policies, discuss what the young person and parent would like to happen next. This could include:

  • Resolve the conflict. The club may be able to mediate, helping to find ways to deescalate and resolve the issue.
  • The young person or parent can report the harmful content to the social media platform. If the platform doesn’t help, and the abuse is very serious, they can make a report to eSafety
  • Stop contact and tighten security. Let the young person and parent know they can use in-app functions to mute, ignore or hide the comments of the teammates who are picking on them. After they have collected evidence and reported the abuse, they can also delete the messages and block the others. It’s a good idea for the young person to review their security and privacy settings too – there’s information in The eSafety Guide on how to do this for different apps, games and social media.
  • Get more help. The young person may feel overwhelmed or distressed by this experience. Share with them eSafety’s advice on how to manage the impacts of cyberbullying. You can also offer information about counselling and support services that can help them.

Follow-up actions may also be required:

  • Record details of the incident and actions taken, according to your club and sport policies.
  • Make sure to monitor and check the abuse has stopped, and the young person feels safe and supported. 
  • Communicate and reinforce positive online values with all members.

In this case the message was sent by a member of the club to another member of the club.

  • Support and reassure the coach – let them know the club is here to help. 
  • Follow your relevant sport policies, such as code of conduct and member protection. 
  • Involve appropriate sport organisation staff and volunteers to help manage the situation.
  • Advise the coach not to respond to the abuse, but to collect evidence and store it in a file where they don’t have to keep seeing it if it’s upsetting them – this is important proof if they decide to report it to the online platform or service or to eSafety. You can show them eSafety’s pages on how to screenshot on a on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android device

In line with your policies, discuss what the coach would like to happen next. This could include one or more options:

  • Resolve the conflict. The club may be able to mediate, helping to find ways to deescalate and resolve the conflict with the parent.
  • The coach can report the harmful content to the app used to send the message. If the app doesn’t help, and the abuse is very serious, they can make a report to eSafety
  • Stop contact and tighten security. Let the coach know they can use in-app functions to mute, ignore or hide the account. After they have collected evidence and reported the abuse, they can also delete the messages and block the other account. It’s a good idea for them to review their security and privacy settings too – there’s information in The eSafety Guide on how to do this for different apps, games and social media.
  • Get more help. The coach might feel overwhelmed or distressed by this experience. Share with them eSafety’s advice on how to manage the impacts of adult cyber abuse. You can also offer information around counselling and support services that can help them.

Follow-up actions may also be required:

  • Record details of the incident and actions taken, according to your club and sport policies.
  • Make sure to monitor and check the abuse has stopped, and the coach feels safe and supported. 
  • Communicate and reinforce positive online values with all members.

You can also get help and support from one of these counselling services

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Lifeline

All ages. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

More support services

Last updated: 01/11/2023