Safeguarding will allow athletes the opportunity to excel and compete at their best in a safe environment.

In its policy for Safeguarding Participants in Rowing against Harassment and Abuse, FISA states that, “it is a fundamental right of all individuals involved with FISA, whether they are an athlete, staff, or a volunteer, to be able to participate in a non-violent, safe and respectful environment.”  

It goes on to define harassment and abuse, to identify the scope of the policy and to clearly state the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved. (click here for full text).

The policy is the result of a project initiated early in 2018 with the establishment of a special working group. The working group included: Lenka Wech, Chair of FISA’s Athletes Commission and member of the FISA Executive Committee, Juergen Steinacker, Chair of FISA’s Sports Medicine Commission, Mike Wilkinson, Sports Medicine Commission Member, Annamarie Phelps, an Associate Consultant at Safe Sport International and European Rowing Board Member and Lucy Trochet, FISA Governance Manager.

The first step for the working group was to develop a draft policy. This document was approved by the FISA Council at their meeting in September 2018 at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The next step was putting together the procedures for handling cases. Working together with other international federations and using the International Olympic Committee (IOC) toolkit on safeguarding, the working group has developed reporting and referral procedures and key role descriptions. These were approved by the FISA Council in February earlier this year.

"The subject of Safeguarding is one to be tackled across all areas of life as well as sport. In rowing, we have now accomplished the first step in having procedures and policies in place,” says FISA Executive Director Matt Smith. “Our next goal is to increase awareness and education on the subject. We are currently working together with other federations as well as the IOC to continue to make progress in safeguarding in sport." ​

In parallel, several workshops and information sessions were held. Annamarie Phelps presented on safeguarding policy at the National Federations Conference in November 2018 and Lenka Wech ran an information session as a part of the World Rowing Coaches Conference in November and also at the 2018 FISA Joint Commissions Meeting.

“A really important aspect of safeguarding is awareness and education. Everyone inside our sport needs to know and recognise signs of abuse. By raising the level of awareness and creating a culture of care, we empower athletes to speak up and look for help. Education also helps athletes, support staff and FISA members to intervene in an appropriate manner if they witness abuse,” says Wech.

The Safeguarding website page was also recently launched (http://www.worldrowing.com/fisa/about-fisa/safeguarding-135508). It includes the policy, procedures and incident reporting documents as well as an email address for any concerns to be reported. Event Safeguarding Officers will be introduced at all World Rowing Events during the 2019 season and support will be offered to future Organising Committees to help embed Safeguarding throughout their planning. 

The working group is also currently developing a training and communication plan. The FISA staff will be the first to take part in Safeguarding training in early May. The communication plan will be implemented throughout the season and remain an important facet in FISA conferences and meetings.