Now more than ever, we are aware of the need for strong leadership in our sport; the importance of gaining sport and NGB recognition in England in order to provide regulation and better support in areas such as safeguarding, education and grassroots funding for clubs and a desire from the community for transparency and integrity to be at the heart of those organisations leading.
Please find information below on the work currently being undertaken on behalf of the cheerleading community by SportCheer England.
Sport and NGB recognition
Sport and NGB recognition from Sport England is a lengthy process that requires organisations to meet a range of robust criteria, including specific policy development, organisational structure, demonstration that the organisation has the mandate to govern the majority of the sport in the country (through membership) and evidence of a minimum of two years AGMs and accounts. Good governance, integrity and transparency is at the centre of The Code for Sports Governance’s requirements from Sport England, and you can read more about this here: www.sportengland.org/funds-and-campaigns/code-sports-governance
Having recently passed the two year mark, SCE is now preparing for the pre-application stage of recognition with Sport England (this process can take up to 24 months from submission of pre-application to acceptance of full application and recognition). The next phase is to introduce paying membership for clubs. This is a requirement of the recognition process (in order to demonstrate the organisation has the mandate to govern) and we will tell you more about this further down in this document.
While there are many benefits to clubs of sport recognition, the most critical change recognition would bring is to Safeguarding in our sport. Currently, as an unrecognised sport, many Local Authority Designated Officers and Children’s Services are not willing to engage with us on matters of Safeguarding. This hugely inhibits our ability to support clubs and to keep athletes safe. During this interim period, we are working hard to look at what more can be done for cheerleading clubs. We will tell you more about the work we have been doing on Safeguarding further down in this document.
Membership is a key component of meeting Sport England’s recognition criteria. Membership is also the mechanism by which we can begin to better regulate who participates in the sport (through membership requirements for coaches and clubs, such as DBS checks, coaching qualifications, insurance, First Aid and Safeguarding training etc), as well as providing education and professional development offers.
Developing membership is not a simple process. We know from our 2019 national survey that there are an estimated 70-80,000 athletes in England, representing approximately 7 – 800 clubs. At the moment of membership launch, we must be ready to responsibly manage the volume of data that entails and so we have spent the past 12 months researching reputable third party platform providers who can not only meet our current needs, but scale with us as the organisation grows. We have now selected a provider, who also works with a number of other English NGBs, and are currently developing the platform with them, to meet the needs of our membership.
In October, we will be asking clubs to sign up to a mailing list to receive more information about our membership launch, and also to indicate their intention to support SportCheer England as a member of the NGB. Statistics from the sign-ups to our mailing list will be used in our pre-application phase to Sport England. The mailing list sign up will be accessible through the new website on the membership page.
In October, we will be launching a brand new website. This site will contain information and resources for coaches, athletes and parents, as well as a link to sign up to the mailing list and a portal to the membership platform (once launched).
Because cheerleading is an unregulated sport, Local Authority Designated Officers (LADOS) and Children’s Services are not obliged to work with SportCheer England, and in some cases have been unable to engage with us regarding concerns that have been raised to us due to their own limitations. This is because their involvement generally is limited to cases linked to matters under police investigation, persons under employment, or persons involved in a regulated activity (which is why regulation of cheer is so vital). They do not have their own investigative powers, and so even if an individual in cheer is employed by a club, LADO involvement remains limited to advice given based on information provided. This makes SCE’s current safeguarding role significantly limited in capacity, which is frustrating. It potentially gives the impression to those who have raised concerns that we are letting them down or intentionally not pursuing cases, when in actual fact our involvement is either blocked or restricted.
We acknowledge that our current situation is very confusing for members of the public: Coaches, athletes and parents are often labouring under the impression we have various investigative powers, enforceable minimum standards for membership which would be the basis of any investigation, mandate to restrict involvement of individuals in cheer, resources and staff to manage safeguarding concerns that simply does not exist at this stage in the organisation’s development. Currently SCE has one volunteer Safeguarding Officer, whose role is limited at this stage to providing advice and signposting to authorities.
While we are at this current stage of development, SCE needs to be clear regarding the limitations of its role and what clubs should and can be doing while we are not yet in a position to take on investigations and sanctioning. SCE have held meetings with the CPSU (the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit) and the Ann Craft Trust (Sport England’s Adult safeguarding partner) to discuss an interim strategy for this.
The current strategy is to have robust education on our website detailing what clubs need to have in place for themselves (a Child Protection Policy, DSO, Training etc) and then a clear understanding of what can and should be escalated to SCE. A flowchart outlining the procedure for escalation (developed by the CPSU) is now available on our website: https://sportcheerengland.org/report-a-concern
Additionally, SCE have been working with Safeguarding Today (safeguardingtoday.co.uk) to look at a way to offer a DSO course at a reduced rate, as clubs have highlighted cost as a barrier to training. We will be presenting this offer in the coming months.
Appointment of new board members
SCE is currently in the process of appointing several new Non Executive and Executive Directors to the board, to complete the board structure and assist in the next exciting phase of the organisation’s development. The board composition has been developed by an SCE governance sub-committee comprising existing board directors working with The Value Circle (https://thevaluecircle.co.uk/) to undertake a board skills review and align the existing board structure with the Code for Sports Governance requirements. Interviews are currently in progress and it is hoped appointments can be made by the end of November, after legal screening processes have taken place.
Once appointments have been made, SCE will begin the development of sub-committees to support the work of the board and bring in further expertise from different fields. Details of the full board structure and sub-committees will be available on the new website.
To better understand the appointment process of board members to a sport’s national governing body, please see this useful resource from the Sports Governance Academy: Building effective boards (sportsgovernanceacademy.org.uk)
National Team Management
In May 2021 SportCheer England concluded a 12 month review into the running of the National Teams with particular reference to reviewing the policies being operated by teams on athlete welfare, disability awareness and data handling, and to bring all national teams into alignment and under the oversight of SportCheer England. The recommendations from this report were made public on the SportCheer England website. Since its publication, SCE has been working to put in place the recommendations from the report. This year has included policy updates for national teams, mandatory training for coaches and management and SCE meetings with Sport England, Ann Craft Trust, Activity Alliance and ParaCheer International, to develop and implement best practice training and guidelines. Moving forward we will be looking at the next phase of National Team development, which includes Talent ID, development and pathways for athletes and coaches, and the potential of a future Olympic squad.
Working With Parents In Sport
SportCheer England is working with Working With Parents In Sport (www.parentsinsport.co.uk); an incredible organisation who partner with the likes of UK Coaching, England Rugby, British Gymnastics, Basketball England and more, to provide resources and support to parents and coaches. WWPIS develop bespoke platforms which are tailored to sports individual needs and accessed via sporting bodies’ and NGB’s memberships. WWPIS will offer membership to a cheer bespoke version of its platform as a benefit of SportCheer England membership and we are currently working with them on its development.
WWPIS is also working with SCE on creating a series of 3 cheerleading focused activity books in their My Sporting Journey series, designed for preschool and Primary aged children. These will be sold via the WWPIS and SCE websites as a resource for recreational and grassroots classes.
Black History Month project development
For the past 12 months SCE has been in conversation with consultant and gym owner Paige Hottor, regarding how SCE can tackle the issues of racial diversity, representation, inclusion, and access in the sport of Cheerleading in England.
Inspired by this year’s Black History Month theme “Time for change; action not words”, in October SCE will launch a year-long project, helping coaches and gym owners to take small, practical steps towards improving the diversity and inclusivity of our sport. The aspiration is that this project will then be built upon and developed to create more in depth and sustainable work in this area. Look out for our launch video coming next month on social media!
BUCS recognition for university teams
SportCheer England, along with our home nation counterparts (SportCheer Wales, SportCheer Scotland and SportCheer NI) held meetings in April and May with BUCS regarding university recognition and the potential opportunities for UK teams to represent GB at future ICU University World Cups. This conversation is ongoing, and we look forward to working with BUCS towards recognition – something we know will greatly benefit students participating in the sport at university level in many ways.
Representation at international governance meetings and various sports network events, representing England and the interests of English athletes, coaches and gym owners
In April 2022 representatives from the SCE board attended the ICU International Federation AGM meetings in Florida, USA to represent England and the interests of English athletes, coaches and gym owners. This included England specifically submitting questions on (and successfully having added to the agenda) Safeguarding in the sport.
Over the past 12 months SCE board members have also attended networking events with representatives from Sport England, UK Coaching, UK Sport, The Ann Craft Trust, CPSU, The Professional Body For Sports Leadership, Women’s Sport Collective, Women in Sport, DIAL Global and numerous sporting NGBs to build relationships, foster understanding and further the cause of SportCheer England.
We hope you have found this update informative. If you are interested in supporting SportCheer England, please do sign up to the mailing list when it launches next month, and if you would like to contribute your skills by participating in a board sub-committee, please look out for information coming on this in the new year. SCE will be looking for expertise across a wide range of areas, including athlete representation.