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Promoting safe sports in Singapore: education, due diligence and disciplinary processes

Safe Sport
Friday, 19 June 2020 By Chui Ling Goh (Ling)

On 3 June 2020, after more than three years since investigations begun, a Singapore veteran athletic coach was found guilty[1] of molesting a teenage athlete under his care in 2013. Singapore, for a small sporting nation, has been home to many allegations and cases of abuse in sports. In 2007, two local teachers associated with sporting activities in their respective schools were charged with sexually assaulting boys under their charge.[2] In 2018 alone, a local basketball coach[3], a football coach[4],  and a rope-skipping coach[5], were charged and found guilty of child sexual abuse. And earlier in 2020, a Muay Thai instructor was found guilty[6] of sexually abusing one of his athlete clients. One fears many more cases go unreported.

Safe sport can seem like a secondary concern within the overall developments of an ambition emerging sporting nation.  But the reality is that Singapore has no choice but to move swiftly to establish guidelines and protocols to ensure safety is a top priority in sports.  If it fails to do so, it risks suffering the same fate and liability of sporting organisations like Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, whose combined liability for the systemic sexual abuse of Dr Larry Nasser could run close to $1billion.[7]

This article examines four main areas that the author believes Singapore should prioritise in its endeavours to create a safer sporting environment in the country, namely:

  1. Improving due diligence and background checks when licencing and appointing coaches;
  2. Improving education/awareness, particular for community/student athletes;
  3. Implementing robust investigatory and disciplinary processes; and
  4. Developing a blueprint for best practice.

At the outset, it will be prudent to state that this article is based on the information presently available to the public.

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Chui Ling Goh (Ling)

Chui Ling Goh (Ling)

Chui Ling Goh (Ling) is doctoral researcher with Melbourne Law School, specialising in sports law and governance. Ling is a published author in journals such as International Sports Law Journal, and International Sports Law Review. She also co-authored sports policy work with Professional Football Association and Singapore Athletic Association. Ling has professionally advised national sporting organisations and companies on their legal and policy issues, such as governance and employment. She presently sits on the board of Singapore’s only sports charity, Chiam See Tong Sports Fund, and Singapore Cycling Federation’s Athlete Appeals Committee.

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