As time goes on, the amount of paperwork involved in coaching is increasing. T&Cs documents, photography consent forms, competition consent forms etc. The list goes on.
Although we’d by lying if we said we didn’t sigh a little when another new policy is introduced, we always remind ourselves to understand just why it’s needed and what might happen if we didn’t have it.
When we first started planning our safeguarding in sport guide which launched in 2019, many of the team hadn’t heard of ‘County Lines’ before. Many of us were shocked to think that it was possible for athletes, parents or coaches to attend training carrying weapons. We found ourselves questioning, ‘What would I do as a club owner/coach in that situation?’; and the truth is, we didn’t know.
We thought that there’d be quite a few clubs out there in a similar position. This is why we asked Marilyn, CEO and Founder of Freedom from Abuse CIC, to explain a little more about the importance of having a weapons policy for your club.
What is County Lines?
“Safer lives does not mean drugs and knives.” That’s a phrase I take on my training travels all across the United Kingdom. If you listen to the news, you’ll probably be aware of the increasing situations with knife crime across the UK.
You may or may not be aware of ‘County Lines’. In some bigger cities in the UK, drug gangs are exploiting children/vulnerable people in smaller towns to sell drugs. They’re doing this to expand their business and push out local drug dealers.
The term ‘County Lines’ is used because the dealers use phone lines (called ‘deal lines’) to take drug orders. People involved in County Lines are known to carry weapons such as knives, bats, acid, firearms and so on.
With County Lines gangs involved in both big cities and small towns, we at Freedom from Abuse are urging sports clubs around the UK to implement weapons policies.
Do weapons really get taken to sports club practice?
YES they do and we see it more than we’d like to. We are already aware of issues at a few racquet clubs where knives have been hidden in kit bags. Although we’d all like to believe that our club’s youngsters would never get involved in anything violent or drug-related, we can never assume that they won’t. And that is why, for the rest of the club’s safety, you should have a weapon’s policy.
Credit: The Sun
What would you do if someone pulled a knife out in training?
If suddenly confronted with a violent situation including a weapon, what do you intend to do? Although it isn't nice to think about, it's good to be prepared. I always suggest that parents would feel more at ease knowing that your club is taking a pro-active stance.
Did you know that 75% of young people carrying knives are NOT in a gang. However, 50% of those are stabbed with their own knife.
Girls as young as 8 have now been reported carrying knives. Sadly, this is a sign of the times they’re growing up in – where they see a knife as a normal thing to carry around.
I can’t stress enough that it is illegal to carry an offensive weapon, even a penknife. But, just because it’s illegal, it doesn’t mean that members won’t do it. And this is why you need to have clear rules in place.
Also, did you know that weapons are being created that are easy to disguise as everyday objects? Just take at some of the images in this article.
Credit: NY Post.
What do the government say?
The new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stated on 29th December 2019:
"I will not tolerate those who encourage vulnerable young people to be involved in violence, and anyone who does so will literally feel the terror of breaking the law."
Priti intends to toughen up the sentencing which we believe is thoroughly needed. When you see the scale of the situation, specifically in our profession, you realise it's out of control.
We are fortunate to have a grant given by the Home Office VERU (violent exploitation reduction unit) project where we are working with Bedfordshire Police across the County. If you are in Bedfordshire do contact us to attend a course. Our Caught for Court course takes young people on the journey from arrest, to court, to a young offender institute, to life inside, and then to being released with a criminal record.
Who is affected?
When you think of the consequences of a member coming to class with a weapon, you may instantly think of injuries they could cause. However, it’s important not to forget that everyone associated with the member/that specific class could be affected.
Not only could someone get hurt, but others could get wrongly associated with the weapon holder. Few people, including teachers, have never heard of ‘joint enterprise’. This is where, if an innocent youngster is standing in a group and something goes horribly wrong, they could be found guilty by association. This could see them in trouble without even realising it.
How can my club become more educated?
Even if your club is outside of Bedfordshire, contact us anyway. We provide training courses for clubs just like yours which will engage your young members to think critically about accountability and consequences.
Once involved in a gang/drugs, it is very difficult to escape and very dangerous to stay a part of. This is a societal issue and we ALL need to step up and open our eyes. It could be YOUR child tomorrow.
To download your own weapons policy for FREE, download our safeguarding in sport guide. The policy will be sent it you a few emails in, along with some other really useful safeguarding resources.