About us

Who we are

Who we are

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) is part of the NSPCC and is funded by Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales, UK Sport and The Football Association.

(In Scotland, there's a similar partnership between Children 1st and sportscotland.)

The CPSU was founded in 2001 in response to a series of high-profile cases of abuse of young athletes. We work to help improve safeguarding and child protection practices within sport organisations, to ensure all children and young people are safe while participating in sport and physical activity at all levels.

Michelle North, Head of CPSU, said:

"Since the CPSU was formed, there have been considerable developments within safeguarding across the sport sector. This is due to the great work of the staff and volunteers within sports organisations striving to create safer cultures and environments for children and young people, but the work continues, and the Unit remains essential today. Our aim is to ensure that children and young people are protected in and through sport and activity, and we want to help and support organisations to do this."

The unit plays a strategic role in the landscape of sport in the UK. We work directly with UK Sport Councils, National Governing Bodies (NGBs), Active Partnerships (APs) and other organisations. We support organisations to implement and maintain safeguarding practices, to minimise the risk of abuse and ensure that sport stays safe and enjoyable for all those involved.

Further information

The CPSU helps to achieve the NSPCC mission to protect children and end child abuse – find out more about the NSPCC and the many ways it works every day to keep children safe.

Our aim and values

Our aim

To support the sport and physical activity sector to create a caring culture where children and young people are safe and thrive in sport.

Our values

We put children and young people first by:

  • encouraging the sport and physical activity sector to put children and young people at the centre of everything they do
  • working in collaboration to always improve the environment they take part in
  • establishing standards of best practice when engaging with children and young people

We take a stand by:

  • influencing stakeholders in sport and physical activity to embed safeguarding best practice
  • campaigning for improvements to safeguard children in sport and physical activity
  • checking and challenging poor behaviours that impact on children and young people

We work together by:

  • collaborating with stakeholders and partners to strengthen safeguarding in sport and physical activity
  • empowering others to understand the impact they have on children and young people
  • supporting stakeholders and partners to create safer sporting environments and culture

We strive for excellence by:

  • sharing learning from reviews and investigations regarding safeguarding in sport
  • pushing the boundaries of expectations to continue to learn and share best practice
  • living the values of safeguarding children and young people in our day-to-day work

We make an impact by:

  • advocating for changes in legislation and procedures to safeguard children and young people
  • assessing safeguards in sport and physical activity to ensure they meet agreed standards
  • always striving to increase practice standards through quality training
Our work

Our work with national bodies, clubs and activity providers

We assist sporting organisations to develop, implement and embed their safeguarding responses, policies and procedures and systems to help to create a safe and inclusive environment for all participants, staff and volunteers.

Since 2001, we have worked with sport and statutory agencies to ensure that all children, regardless of their level of participation in sport or where they participate, have a safe and enjoyable experience.

We do this by:

Though we are happy to give safeguarding advice to those who may need it, we cannot investigate specific cases. If you need help with investigating a case or safeguarding concerns, please contact your National Governing Body or Active Partnership.

The NSPCC helpline can offer in-depth advice and can be contacted by phoning 0808 800 5000 or emailing help@nspcc.org.uk.

Emerging work

To ensure the CPSU is working to co-deliver the aims of Sport England's Uniting the Movement strategy and the NSPCC's 2021-31 strategy we are bringing safeguarding to the forefront in several areas of work across the UK, including:

Inclusivity in sport

We aim to better understand intersectionality, systemic unconscious biases and the risks minoritised children and young people experience to better tackle inequalities in safeguarding in sport. 

To achieve this, we will engage specialist groups, both internal and external, and use this learning to support the review and update of our standards. To ensure that all communities are represented and there is safeguarding access for all.

Independent, community and sport activity providers

We aim to support a wider range of sport and activity providers, offering guidance and resources to help put in place, implement and embed safeguarding practices within their club or activity. We will look to engage directly with this audience to find out where the gaps are and work together to fill these, ensuring everything is in place so that children can have a fun and safe experience. 

Leisure facilities

We aim to grow our existing relationships with the leisure sector to identify the needs of both the public and the sector, to meet safeguarding standards and help protect children from harm. 

Volunteer programme

We aim to reach into new communities across sport by developing our volunteering programme. We have recruited a network of volunteers who will support us to strengthen our understanding of community safeguarding practices, build links and spread awareness of safeguarding best practice at a local level.

National awareness raising campaigns

Keeping your child safe in sport

Keeping your child safe in sport is our campaign to raise awareness of the important role parents play in youth sport. Each year, we hold a focused awareness week during the first week of October, where we bring together parents, sports clubs and bodies, and NSPCC ambassadors to help parents to keep children safe in sport. 

Close the Loophole

Until June 2022, a loophole in the law meant that some adults who hold a position of power over a young person aged 16 or 17 (including sports coaches) could legally have sex with them. This was unlike teachers, for whom this would be a serious criminal offence.

The NSPCC campaigned to get this law changed and, in March 2021, the Ministry of Justice announced that the law was being extended to see sports coaches and faith leaders included alongside roles like teachers and social workers. This went into effect on Tuesday 28 June 2022, with sports coaches and faith leaders now being recognised in law as being in 'positions of trust'.

For further information, please see our news article about the success of the campaign and listen to our Changes in positions of trust legislation podcast.

Meet the team

Meet the CPSU team

Michelle North
Head of CPSU

Michelle joined the CPSU team in April 2013 and was appointed as Head of CPSU in April 2020. Prior to this she worked for the NSPCC Safeguarding in Education Service.

Before joining the NSPCC, Michelle was an Education Welfare Officer with over 10 years' frontline experience and later a Senior Manager with responsibility for prosecutions and case management.

She is responsible for managing the unit’s staff across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. She also manages relationships with the respective Sports Councils and with our key partners in sport.

Laura Whapham
Commercial Business Manager

Laura joined the CPSU team in 2011. Prior to joining the unit she worked in both the statutory and voluntary social care sectors with a range of young people with complex needs. This included children with disabilities, young carers and looked after children. She also has a degree in sport and physical education.

Laura has held multiple roles within the CPSU team including leading the Wales team, and leading as Senior Assessor in a pilot project with the Football Association.

In her current role, Laura is responsible for the CPSU’s commercial activity. By developing the commercial capabilities of the CPSU we hope to extend the reach of our work.


The England team work to support and improve safeguarding and child protection practices within sport's National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Active Partnerships in England. This involves training, consultation and conducting annual safeguarding reviews to ensure safeguarding is being maintained and embedded within organisations. As part of this work, the England team aim to:

  • build the capacity and knowledge within sport organisations
  • enable sports organisations to recognise and respond to concerns relating to children
  • play an important role in Sport England's Uniting the Movement, working to ensure equity of safety for all children by building a shared understanding of the risk's minority groups face

The CPSU also Manages the safeguarding arrangements and provides safeguarding support for the national School Games which take place bi-annually. This support includes the development of the event safeguarding plan, training the events safeguarding team and managing the safeguarding team during the event. This team consist of:

FA 365

The FA365 Project team independently assess each of the 52 County FAs against a set of safeguarding criteria which looks at evidence across areas of the business such as governance, operational delivery, case management, voice of the child and monitoring and compliance. 

Where relevant, the assessors will look at how examples of best practice can be shared within The FA, and to the wider sport safeguarding setting. The team consist of:

Information, content and digital production

The Information, content and digital production team work closely with colleagues from across the CPSU team, the wider NSPCC and specialist subject matter experts to develop and review digital content to help sports club and activity providers to keep children and young people safe in sport. The team find new and informative ways of getting safeguarding information to the sports sector. The team consist of:

Northern Ireland

Paul Stephenson is our Senior Consultant for Northern Ireland. He works to support sport's governing bodies to achieve and maintain their safeguarding standards. Paul assists organisations in having robust safeguarding policies and procedures but also encourages self-reflection to enable sports to examine their own culture and communication with their own stakeholder.

The Northern Ireland project supports sports organisations to:

  • engage parents to help their child to enjoy their sporting experience and fulfil their full potential
  • engage with young people and listen to their voices when shaping the delivery of sports activities and competitions
  • understand the role they have in supporting a young people's mental health and wellbeing
  • Raise awareness of sexual abuse prevention

UK Sport

The UK Sport team provide safeguarding and child safeguarding guidance, support and training to UK Sport sole funded organisations. The team supports performance organisations to maintain and embed safeguarding standards to help create safer sporting environments and cultures for elite and talented young athletes. This team consist of:


Our Wales team support and guide the Welsh National Governing Bodies and National Partners Organisations with their child protection and safeguarding provisions within the sector.

This is implemented through our CPSU framework for safeguarding and protecting children in and through sport in Wales. We work with the organisations on safeguarding aspects such as, policies & procedures, case management processes, engaging and consulting with children and young people, education and training, implementation and monitoring and influencing. Overall enabling them to maintain and embed a safeguarding culture and promoting best-practice safeguarding throughout the organisation. The Wales team consists of: