In various sectors working with children, a good conduct certificate (VOG) has long been mandatory, such as the health and education sectors. But in the sports sector, this requirement only applies to top sports. If it is up to Minister Helder for long-term care and sports, that changes: She presented an action plan in Trouw to combat abuse in sports.
Helder wants to catch up in the area of safety by, among other things, introducing a VOG obligation for coaches and administrators in the entire sports sector. The minister also wants to separate the Center for Safe Sports Netherlands, where athletes can report abuse, from the sports umbrella organization NOC*NSF. In this way, conflicts of interest must be avoided.
According to the NOC*NSF, only 19 percent of all sports clubs in amateur sports currently have a VOG obligation of their own accord. André de Jeu from Vereniging Sport en Gemeenten (the municipalities’ umbrella organization in the field of sports policy) sees it as a great loss that the theme of a safe sports climate is not yet widely supported by all sports providers.
“There is not full attention to this in associations. It is primarily about practical matters, but not about: ‘how do we treat each other?'” says De Jeu.
‘A VOG is nothing more than normal’
Judo Bond Nederland has been working with a quality mark since 2014, which includes a mandatory VOG for judo teachers. 100 of the 560 affiliated associations now have such a quality mark. Although Benny van den Broek, sports participation coordinator at the association, sees the number growing steadily, there is still a long way to go.
“You can feel that there is more and more attention to it from a social point of view. Clubs want to profile themselves as a safe sports environment and thus also distinguish themselves from others.”
De Jeu finds it strange that there is not yet such an obligation. “If you’re dropping off your child somewhere, whether it’s at school, daycare or the sports club, you want them to be in good hands. A VOG is nothing more than normal.”
We owe it to all young people and children.
Finding good coaches and supervisors is often a hell of a job for many sports clubs. Whether a mandatory VOG will make it even more difficult is the question. Minister Helder: “Especially grassroots sports depends on a lot of volunteers who do a lot of good for the sport, we don’t want to discourage them.” On the other hand, says the minister, “we owe it to all young people and children that we have arranged things well in the Netherlands”.
Take matters into your own hands
Nevertheless, there are also municipalities and sports associations that have already taken matters into their own hands and are working with mandatory conditions for sports associations. For example, the Dutch Martial Arts Authority was established in 2017 as the supervisor of the martial arts organization in the Netherlands.
With the municipality of Amsterdam, it is already mandatory for sports providers – who wish to use a collaboration with the municipality – to have a VOG for each coach or supervisor for young people up to the age of seventeen. In addition, there must be a confidential contact person present, something Minister Helder also wants to make mandatory for every association.
But can such a quality label or mandatory VOG really make a difference? No, not that, says Van den Broek. “Of course, you never have guarantees. But it starts with awareness; that responsible people think of a confidential contact person, a protocol against bullying and against sexually offensive behaviour.”
And De Jeu does not see a society completely free of abuse happening in the near future. “Incidents will always occur, but you can ask yourself if you really did everything you could to prevent it.”