Summary and prospects of the project

  1. Project summary in numbers
  2. The project topic and its challenges
  3. The challenge of youth-led campaigns
  4. General recommendations for sport federations and clubs
  5. Recommendations for projects aiming at empowering young people through youth-led campaigns


Sport respects your rights started in April 2013 with the aim of empowering young Europeans in sport for a culture of respect and integrity, against sexualised violence and gender harassment. To achieve this goal, Sportunion Austria and Engso Youth established a consortium of partner organisations in Europe, which was funded by the Daphne III Programme of the European Union. Almost two years later it is our task to resume and evaluate the project. The German Sport University (Institute of Sociology and Gender Studies) was entrusted with the training, coaching, monitoring and evaluating of Sport respects your rights.

As is often the case for international projects of this size, it is challenging to give a short and clear-cut summary of the outcomes of the project. Thus, the following summary and prospects are deemed to show a focused perspective. Our monitoring and evaluation of the project is based on two systematic questionnaire surveys (a third is still to come in March 2015), systematic group discussions that were recorded and analysed, feedback methods during seminars as well as numerous conversations with national and local partners during the implementation of the project. These methods were applied in order to facilitate a responsive process-evaluation. It was our aim to collect information on the problems, challenges and outcomes and hereby supply an ongoing and constructive input to the steering of the project.

Project summary in numbers

Effective 1st February 2015, two months before project end

Project summary in numbers – The reach and the planned scope of the project  Illustration: Rulofs/Axmann/Kluß/Schröer, German Sport University Cologne

Project summary in numbers – The reach and the planned scope of the project
Illustration: Rulofs/Axmann/Kluß/Schröer, German Sport University Cologne

Sport respects your rights included eight partner organisations from the field of sport in six European countries. The eight coordinators of the partner organisations took part in a two- day ‘Kick-off Meeting’ in May 2013 to agree upon the steps to implement the project. Following this, the partner organisations recruited 22 local organisations or groups in their countries which included traditional sport clubs as well as informal youth groups and youth sectors of a special sport federation. Each of these local clubs designated two responsible actors to become part of the consortium, summing up to 44 local actors.

The eight partner coordinators and the local actors were invited to take part in two European Trainings (each five days, in September 2013 and November 2013). During these trainings a total of 52 participants were trained to serve as multipliers for the project to empower young people in sport for a culture of respect and integrity. Back in their home countries, these multipliers designed and offered 34 workshops for a total of 514 young people (aged 16–22 years).

During and after these 62 workshops the young people created campaigns to sensitise and empower their peers for a culture of respect in sport and to combat sexualised violence and gender harassment in sport. At this stage of the project, the campaigns have been disseminated to 2.061 young people throughout Europe. The process of dissemination is still continuing and will outlive the formal end of the project.

In addition, 20 round table meetings were held by the partner organisations. These Round Tables aimed at establishing a network of relevant actors for safeguarding young people in sport on national or regional level.

According to our data, more than 16.239 hours of voluntary work were invested by the partners in order to facilitate the project.

The topic and aims of the project evoked noticeable challenges for some of the partner organisations. Depending on the status quo of child protection and existing ap- proaches to deal with discrimina- tion and minority rights in their national political systems, the partners faced distinct reactions. Whereas for example the partners from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany could rely on already existing structures for safeguarding young people in sport, the partners from other countries were exposed to some problems, being the pioneers in that area in their country.

Some partners, for example, faced extreme difficulties in finding support at the level of local sport clubs. And in one case the project was even confronted with a negative media report coming from a right wing media institution. This demonstrates that the taboo, which is placed over sexualised violence and gender harassment in sport, has a different extent and shape in the different European countries.

In the course of the project, all partners found possibilities to cooperate with local clubs and relevant stakeholders and it became apparent that the positive focus of the project, which was also present in the title (Sport respects your rights – for a culture of respect and integrity), was very helpful for establishing a connection to other organisations.

Furthermore, it is remarkable to notice that all the 22 local clubs which initially joined the project and then took part in the European Trainings, remained in the project. The two trainings clearly focused on the prevention of sexualised violence and gender harassment in sport and on establishing a supportive culture of respect. The results of our evaluation questionnaires show that the partners were extremely satisfied with the contents and methods of the two trainings. They reported feeling (very) well prepared to act as multipliers for the project idea.

Yet back in their home countries, some of the multipliers again faced the problem that focusing the narrow scope of the project (on fighting sexualised violence) did not always meet the interests of the young people participating in the workshops. Thus, the variance of the topic remained a major challenge for the steering of the project and at the end, the steering group decided together with the respective partners that compromises with the interests of young people at the grassroot level had to be made.

Whereas the majority of the produced campaigns clearly focus on the prevention of gender harassment and sexualised violence, there are some examples of variance to this topic (e.g. racism, eating dis- orders or emotional violence in sport). As long as the campaigns aimed to reinforce a general culture of respect and integrity in sport, these variations of interpreting the project topic were valued as constructive.

Considering the quite complex structure of the project (which included activities on various levels) and taking into account the demanding topic, one of the biggest challenges was to maintain a proactive and positive atmosphere throughout the project implementation. This was only possible by establishing intensive and constructive relationships between the different partners of the project.

The two trainings were designed to facilitate bonding between the partners – within their countries as well as transnational. Furthermore these connections between the actors were constantly maintained by the project coordinator in Vienna (Agnes Kainz) as well as the Mentoring Team in Cologne (Gitta Axmann, Meike Schröer). They offered coaching by telephone, skype and email communications, so that the partners were supervised regularly. The results of our evaluation surveys show that on average the partners were very satisfied with the coordinating and coaching of the project.

The challenge of youth-led campaigns

It was one of the most important goals of the project to empower young Europeans by campaigns that were invented and created by the young people themselves.  This peer-to-peer approach is especially demanding with respect to the severe and sensitive project topic.

Most of the partners reported that the young people were engaging enthusiastically in the workshops and campaigns. They showed great creativity, produced outstanding ideas, wanted “to become part of something important” and thus committed themselves to the project idea. These positive reactions show that there is a great potential for critical reflection and activism in the youth sector. The campaigns that were produced by young people throughout this project can be valued as an important part of changing cultures in sport.

Considering the severity of the topic, the adult project multipliers were responsible for preparing a safe environment for the workshops and campaigns. Following this, the multipliers were trained to sensitise the young people and to install a “First aid plan” for intervention in case the young participants needed help themselves. The multipliers were also advised to involve professionals from local child protection institutions into their workshops and campaigns.

In the course of the project, it became evident that it was a great challenge for the young participants to produce a campaign that conveys a positive perspective to their peers. In a few cases, for example, the young participants initially produced videos or post- ers that were only shocking (e.g. showing young athletes being victims of sexualised violence in their clubs). In these situations the supervision by the trained adult multipliers or the coaching team was necessary in order to ensure that the campaign also offers an empowering perspective – “What are your rights?” “What can you do?” “How to get help if you suffer from violence?” “Who/Where are the local child protection offices?” etc.

These examples show that on the one hand giving the initiative to the young people and on the other hand ensuring an empowering perspective was a challenge the project faced. A good balance between these two sides, needs a profound and intensive educative process as well as a continuous supervision. Last but not least, these processes need time and space for discussion and reflection with and among the young people, in order to develop a personal standpoint and, if possible, a constructive attitude to produce solutions for problems.

Conclusion and recommendations

Looking at the size of the consortium, its limited financial resources and taking into account scientific standards, it was not possible to measure in how far young people were actually empowered by it. Yet, on the basis of the evaluation results it can be stated that Sport respects your rights is a vital part of changing cultures in sport. The project and its activities (trainings, workshops, youth-led campaigns) encourage young people in sport to stand up for their rights and commit themselves for a culture of respect and integrity in sport. Furthermore, Sport respects your rights produces a vivid network of activities on European, national and local level.

These positive outcomes of the project were facilitated by a remarkable number of organisations and people that got involved throughout the project. The central coordinator (Agnes Kainz at Sportunion Austria), the eight coordinators of the partner organisations, the 44 local partners and many young people at the grass- root level developed an impressive engagement for the project. Limited resources and difficulties with EU funding guidelines were overcome by an immense load of idealism and volunteer work. This was only possible because the participants of the project were con- vinced to be part of an important movement – to combat violence and maltreatment and establish a safe and respectful culture in sport!

For all organisations and individuals who want to join the movement of Sport respects your rights, we would like to highlight some selected recommendations that might be useful for the implementation of similar activities:

General recommendations for sport federations and clubs

Following the IOC Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport as well as the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, the following general recommendations are helpful for sport federations and clubs:

  • Integrate a culture of respect and the prevention of gender harassment and sexualised violence into the organisations vision and policy plan
  • Sensitise for the topic through information and awareness- raising campaigns (e.g. look at the examples from Sport respects your rights)
  • Develop procedures for dealing with complaints and concerns (have a “First Aid Plan” in place)
  • Identify two members (ideally male and female) as responsible for the topic (“Child Protection Officers”, “Safeguarding Managers”)
  • Offer education and training for coaches and other members of the organisation (parents, athletes, …)
  • Include standards for safeguarding into recruiting processes for coaches and staff members
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders (national, regional or local) from within and outside the sport domain

Recommendations for projects aiming at empowering young people through youth-led campaigns

If you aim to join the focus of Sport respects your rights by working with young people to create campaigns for a culture of respect and integrity in sport, the following selected recommendations might be helpful:

Prepare the campaigns by a profound and intense training that focuses on human rights, different forms of discrimination and violence as well as the prevention of harassment and violence in sport

Listen closely to the young people’s stories and interests and agree democratically upon the focus of their campaign (sexual harassment, emotional abuse, physical violence, racism, homophobia …)

Install and use a local network to support the qualifying process, e.g. experts from your local community (e.g. child protection officers, human rights activists, scientists, politicians …)

Take care of the proactive energy in the process by offering assistance, emotional support and supervising raise mutual trust and an atmosphere of respect within the campaign group; empower them to act respectfully among each other, so that they can convey an authentic campaign to their peers

Rely on the young people’s potentials to create a campaign, let them use their language and skills in dealing with the topic and contacting their peers

Be aware that empowering young people for a culture of respect is rather a vivid, dialogue based process than just transmitting knowledge or certain skills to the youth

Find a balance between handing over the initiative to the young people and taking over the responsibility for their safety and the content of the campaigns

Support and accompany the young people in producing the campaign, but do not direct them to your result or do not leave them alone

Agree on and take care of the following standards for the campaigns:

  • Raise awareness for problems of discrimination and violence in sport, e.g. for sexualised violence and gender harassment
  • Avoid the underlying message that a victim of sexual harassment and abuse has any responsibility for the assault
  • Produce a positive, constructive and empowering perspective instead of threatening the target group
  • Do not only present problems, develop ideas for their solutions
  • Present good examples for a culture of respect and integrity in sport


Bettina Rulofs, Gitta Axmann, Anno Kluß, Meike Schröer
German Sport University Cologne, Institute of Sociology and Gender Studies

Published in: Sport respects your rights – Project brochure, February 2015