Photography by parents and spectators at events
Most spectators – especially competitors’ family and friends – will want to take photos or videos at sports events.
Organisations responsible for sports and activity events must have a photography policy and procedures in place to safeguard children. As part of their planning process, they'll need to factor in any additional facility or venue policies, as well as determine what stance to take on when photography by the public is allowed.
Although parental consent is not required for photography by the public, event organisers should make the photography policy clear to all participants and parents ahead of the event.
Minimising the risks
- decide on a spectator photography policy during the planning stages of the event:
- clarify and promote the photography rules for the event to all staff, volunteers, spectators, parents and young participants
- in these rules, include areas where photography is banned; for more on this, click on the 'Mobile phones and cameras in changing rooms' tab above (or below, on mobile devices)
- warn parents and spectators that there can be negative consequences to sharing images linked to information about their own or other people’s children on social media (Facebook, Twitter) – and care should be taken about ‘tagging’
- establish procedures to respond to and manage any concerns arising, including clear reporting structures and a system to contact police when necessary
Getting the message across
There’s a range of ways event organisers can inform stakeholders about their photography policy, including:
- pre-event registration, consent or information forms
- packs and leaflets for all event staff and volunteers, participants and parents
- pre-event induction or training for staff and volunteers
- event programmes
- posters and signage around the venue
- public-address announcements during the event
Responding to concerns
All staff, volunteers, children and parents should be informed that if they have any concerns regarding inappropriate or intrusive photography (in terms of the way, by whom, or where photography is being undertaken), these should be reported to the event organiser or another official.
There must be a safeguarding procedure in place to ensure that reported concerns are dealt with in the same way as any other child-protection issue. Ensure that your club or event organiser, or lead child protection or safeguarding officer is informed.
If there are concerns or suspicions about potentially criminal behaviour this should include referral to the police.
Options for spectator photography policies
Photographic policies can range from total bans on image-taking, to no restrictions (other than those that are covered by the law). Here, we look at the pros and cons of each option.
Banning public photography
With the widespread use of smartphones, tablets and other equipment that can take photos, there are challenges in seeking to impose an outright ban on photography by parents and spectators.
Clear communication to all parties is key to this approach, together with well-publicised systems for anyone to raise concern about breaches of these rules.
Advantages and challenges
Many operators of closed facilities (for example, some swimming pools) prohibit any unauthorised photography. Others may impose bans in specific areas within the facility. Event organisers need to establish, comply with and promote any venue policies or procedures, regardless of their own.
A total ban may make policing the rules more straightforward – although the use of phones may remain an issue – and provides a clear message from organisers about their commitment to safeguarding.
However, a ban can be difficult to enforce, given the number of devices with which images can be taken.
A ban may be very unpopular with parents and other spectators who wish to record the efforts and achievements of their children or friends. A compromise is to let them have access to official photographs of the event.
Registering individuals who wish to take photos
Many event organisers require anyone wishing to take photographs to register. Communicating this to the public is essential, together with establishing a straightforward process for doing so.
Usually, individuals will register via a basic form and receive a sticker or equivalent to indicate they have undergone the process.
Staff, volunteers, participants, parents, spectators and the public need to be both informed about this process and encouraged to report anyone apparently taking photos without the necessary registration.
Advantages and challenges
This system has the advantage of providing a clear message about the organisers’ commitment to safeguarding, potentially deterring individuals with bad intent.
It may provide identifying information about someone should concerns arise, depending on the thoroughness of any identity-checking included in the registration process. And when well advertised, it effectively enlists many spectators in ‘policing’ the rules.
However, registration itself clearly requires resources and time (including for spectators). Unless it’s linked to some form of robust identity check, it won’t provide a mechanism to identify individuals should concerns subsequently arise.
It may provide someone with bad intent with apparent legitimacy for their actions in terms of having official permission to take photographs of participating children.
No outright ban on photos
Some organisations have opted not to ban all photography. Instead, they proactively promote guidance about those specific areas where photography is not permitted under any circumstances (for example, toilets and changing areas).
You should provide the public with key messages about the risks associated with online postings, and encourage them to report any concerns about anyone’s behaviour in this context.
Advantages and challenges
This approach has the advantage of not requiring any registration system (other than for official and professional photographers attending the event).
It focuses more on the concerning aspects of photography being undertaken, rather than photography itself. It acknowledges that many spectators will wish to take photographs, while also promoting safeguarding messages.
This system relies on a high level of public awareness of what behaviours should raise concerns, and of the event’s process for reporting and responding to reported concerns. It provides no process to secure identity details of any spectators.
Photography at open event sites
In general, members of the public are entitled to take photos in public areas, whether or not this includes taking images of children involved in sports events or activities.
Regardless of any policies or procedures governing photography by those involved in or watching sports events, organisers have no right to impose these rules on other members of the public accessing or using the same public spaces.
However, if there are any indications or concerns that an individual may be taking images of children or young people that are inappropriate or illegal, this should immediately be reported to the organisers, who have responsibility for contacting the police.
This could include images of children taken in changing areas or toilets. Or images taken in ways or from angles that suggest inappropriate or abusive intent – for instance, when a camera or other device is operated at ground level while pointing up girls’ skirts.
Organisers should have in place and actively promote clear ways for anyone to report concerns they have about photography or any other aspect of children’s wellbeing.