Striving for safety and inclusion in Island sport

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The Gold Coast 2018 pistol competitor has added a considerable number of strings to her bow over the last decade, thanks in part to roles within the government’s community sports development department and the Jersey Cricket Board, and while she has now moved on from those institutions her drive to ‘give something back’ has certainly not waned.

Having recently completed a masters degree in sports law, with particular focus on the safeguarding of children in sports settings, Holmes is now a board member at the Jersey Football Association and has been tasked with ensuring officials at Springfield remain on their toes when it comes to diversity and inclusion. She has also joined the FA’s disciplinary panel – as a chair for local football league matters – remains on the International Cricket Council’s safeguarding panel for international concerns and was among the first in Jersey to become a qualified shooting judge under new British Shooting technical guidelines.

‘My passion is safeguarding, particularly in sport,’ Holmes said.

‘I started a masters in sports law when I was employed by sport development. I then left sport but wanted to carry on because I was really enjoying it. I was still involved in cricket at that point and I thought it would be useful given the modules on safeguarding, anti-doping and ethics in sport. I also took a couple of modules which helped with what I was doing at the time – medical law, consent and child law.’

Holmes added that she was pleased to be able to promote Jersey’s stance as a leader in safeguarding, when compared to the current stance in the UK.

‘Jersey gets a lot of stick but, for once, we’re ahead of the game,’ she said.

‘Under the new Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018, Jersey is the first place in the UK to make sports coaching a position of trust and I thought I’d do my dissertation on that, looking at whether lessons have been learned for the UK.

‘There’s a big campaign going on in the UK – on the back of the FA abuse enquiry – to change sports coaches to a position of trust. In the UK people like teachers are automatically, under the law, in a position of trust and the age of consent becomes 18, rather than 16.

‘I did a survey with clubs and associations in Jersey in 2019 asking if they knew about the law change. Sadly some of the research showed that some weren’t aware. That’s not to say they’re breaking the law but obviously they need to know, if they’re a sports coach, that it’s illegal to have a sexual relationship with a child you’re teaching if they are under 18. You can go to jail for five years.

‘There has been interest in my research from the NSPCC and a national working group for sexual exploitation and I’ve just submitted a draft article to a journal, the Child Abuse Review, in the hope that is can be published.’

And the Jersey FA are now benefitting from Holmes’ expertise as they strive for continual improvement.

‘I now work delivering safeguarding training across different agencies in Jersey, for the Safeguarding Partnership Board [and] David Kennedy [JFA chief executive] approached me asking if I knew anybody who would be interest in joining the board,’ Holmes explained.

‘I said “if I wasn’t doing X, Y and Z then I would be”, but then I thought about it for a bit. At that point in time I’d moved on from cricket already and I was thinking of taking a step back from shooting. I’d finished my masters so I thought I’d have a bit of time. I do really enjoy being involved in sport in the Island and I thought it was time to give something back through volunteering.

‘It’s brilliant actually. The Jersey FA is in such a fantastic position with a brilliant team of staff in the office. There is a really good buzz around football at the moment and there is a lot going on. The role is really to bring challenge to the board, to make sure we’re doing all we can be doing to be inclusive and to improve diversity in football.

‘I would love to see more women playing, I would love to see more female referees and I would love to see more women on the board. But it’s not just gender diversity – it’s ethnic diversity as well. It’s absolutely fantastic to see new Portuguese teams in the league this year and I would love to see more new teams. It would be great to see a Polish team join.

‘And walking football – it’s great that we’re encouraging older people back into the game but again, I said “have we got any female walking football players?”. They have in Guernsey.

‘It’s really about challenging people’s thinking and asking the questions and they’re very good at acknowledging that there is still work to be done. It is the most popular sport in the Island but there is still real enthusiasm from the JFA to increase participation.’

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