UEFA Child and Youth Protection Workshop 2024: Keeping children and youth safe in football

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On 11 and 12 April, the UEFA Child and Youth Protection Workshop took place at the Brdo Congress Centre in Slovenia. The event served as a unique opportunity for national football associations in Europe, represented by Child and Youth Protection Officers and Football Sustainability Managers, to share their progress in this field and learn from each other and invited experts.

The participants were welcomed by Slovenian Football Association President Radenko Mijatović, who emphasised the importance of safeguarding and protecting children and youth who form one of the most vulnerable groups in football.

In her opening remarks, Laura McAllister, UEFA Vice President and Executive Committee Member, encouraged the more than 70 participants to have an open and collaborative exchange and emphasised UEFA’s dedication to supporting national associations in their child and youth protection journey.  

UEFA presented an update on the uptake of the Child and Youth Protection Policy at country level and gave a refresher of the available resources that can be used by national associations in the implementation of the policy. These most notably include a child safeguarding platform containing toolkits and templates as well as dedicated competition-specific guidelines.

Throughout the event, the representatives of national associations had multiple occasions to share their achievements and good practices in ensuring protection of children and youth in football, as well as inquire for advice and support from UEFA and its partner Terre des hommes in addressing their challenges.   

Human Change, a global advocacy campaign, provided inspiring insights on childhood digital addiction and leveraging football's role in achieving this goal as an antidote to loneliness.  

Founded by Margarita Louis-Dreyfus in her personal capacity, Human Change strives to reshape the global narrative on children's mental health by spotlighting the impact of social media, gaming, and digital devices on developing brains.

Participants heard from Margarita Louis-Dreyfus and Dr. Phil McRae, Executive Staff Officer at Alberta's Teacher Association. Dr. Mitch Prinstein, Chief Science Officer at the American Psychological Association, contributed to the discussion via video link.

“We are now 11 years into the largest epidemic of adolescent mental illness ever recorded. The replacement of human connection by digital connectivity via social media and digital devices isolates children from their families and deprives them of the feeling of belonging. I am happy that this topic is so important for UEFA. Your Football Sustainability Strategy is an excellent body to address the child mental crisis and loneliness. Promoting football as a collective real-person game is the core mission against isolation.” - Margarita Louis-Dreyfus emphasised the urgency of addressing the youth mental health crisis

Moving forward, Human Change and UEFA will continue their collaboration, equipping football associations, clubs, and leagues with evidence-based tools and information.

The workshop represented another step towards the consolidation of all policies and procedures necessary to provide a safe, fun and empowering environment for all children and youth participating in football and has pointed towards new actions in order to achieve this ambition.

Child and youth protection is an integral part of UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy ‘Strength through Unity’. Under this policy, UEFA focuses on protecting the rights of children and youth playing or participating in football, preventing and responding to any form of harm.

To learn more about UEFA’s work related to child and youth protection, you can also access the UEFA RESPECT Report 2022/23, which presents the actions and engagements across the strategic work on all sustainability topics.