Skip to main content
Coach holds a whiteboard, talking to players

Keeping your players and volunteers safe will already be a priority for your club. They should feel safe whenever and wherever they take part in football activities. Many clubs also use online platforms and social media to plan and discuss club activities. So, it’s important to consider how to keep everyone as safe as possible online too.   

This article will help you learn why creating safer physical and digital spaces is important. Let’s take a look.

Physical environment – venues, changing facilities, travel and accommodation

Some clubs hire facilities for training and matches and may enter into agreements with the venue they use. Any agreement, whilst setting out general terms and conditions for use, should also address how any safeguarding concerns will be managed so all parties are clear.   

Any venue's risk assessment process will look at health and safety concerns. It must also factor in safeguarding risks such as who else uses the site at the same time, for what activities, and how any identified risks will be mitigated.   

For matchdays, spectators’ needs must be considered too.   

Consider how you can make your facilities as safe and welcoming as possible. Are there improvements you could make that will make the environment safer? For example, replacing doors and checking locks and lighting. Also, ask players for their input about what would help them feel safe.  

You may be able to apply for funding to support venue improvements.  


In open-age football, under 18s and adults may need to use the same changing facilities. This will need some consideration. You should talk to any under 18s to recognise that your club is meeting the needs of all participants. Considerations you should include are: 

  • Under 18s need to be given the choice whether they want to shower or change at the same time as adults.   
  • Gender-specific changing options should be available. Considering the best changing options for transgender and non-binary players (whether children or adults) should be done on a case-by-case basis, taking their preferences and the needs of all players into account.   

Also, think about changing room use for your match officials. Consider their age and gender identity in your planning and remember that match officials under the age of 18 must not change in the same space at the same time as adults. Think about your opposition teams too and find out if they have under 18s who need to be considered.  

When you’re playing away fixtures, factor this into any matchday planning.   

Of course, all this depends on what facilities are available to you. Many clubs will have players and officials that turn up ready to play and don’t use changing facilities at all. Speaking to your County FA designated safeguarding officer or league officials will help you find the solutions that work for your context.  

Check out The FA changing rooms and showering facilities guidance note 8.4 and the Child Protection in Sport Unit guidance.


If travel has been arranged by the club for activities using a minibus, coach, taxis, etc, the club is responsible for making sure legal requirements are met. This includes checking the company used is legitimate and can verify the roadworthiness of vehicles, the suitability of drivers, and the correct insurances are in place.  

Privately arranged transport to fixtures or training is a personal responsibility. Individuals need to be satisfied that the driver and car meet legal road requirements. No one should feel pressured to travel with anyone they feel uncomfortable with for any reason. Please be aware that 16- and 17-year-olds in open-age teams may find it hard to raise any concerns they have about travel arrangements.    
If you are taking a team with under 18 players on the road, have you considered how to meet the needs of these players? What might they be concerned about? What would support and reassure them? In the past, abusers have taken advantage of trips and overnight stays to perpetrate abuse. For this reason, it’s vital to check in regularly with under 18 players and ensure they have a voice in the arrangements and any concerns expressed by them are followed up. More information can be found in guidance note 5.4.

Similarly, club-provided accommodation such as a hotel needs to be suitably risk assessed. As part of the planning process, visit the proposed accommodation in advance to make sure it meets all your criteria for safety and security. Any additional needs should be factored in as part of the risk assessing process (for example, a player with a hearing impairment may need a personal emergency evacuation plan as they will need an appropriate fire alarm). 

Digital environment – websites, social media and digital communication

 Online environments such as websites and social media can impact player welfare too.

Websites and social media, when well-managed, can be positive and powerful tools for clubs and players. They’re your virtual environment, so they need just as much consideration as your physical environment to ensure they’re fit for purpose.  
The club has responsibility for any online social media groups created by the club  with the purpose of organising football activities. This includes moderating messages and comments. Please be aware that any inappropriate content and comments could result in FA, County FA, police, or civil action being taken against individuals depending on what has been shared (e.g. indecent images, hate speech or libel).   

In open-age football, you need to be particularly mindful of communications with your 16- and 17-year-old players, under 18 match officials, and under 18 coaches and volunteers. 

Take a look at guidance note 6.2 - Digital communications and children (for open age teams).


Key messages 

Online and physical football environments need to be welcoming and as safe as possible. This is crucial for everyone to enjoy the game. Here are some steps to achieve that: 

  • Check and fix any safety issues at your ground. 
  • Consult under 18 players about their preferences and the available options for changing. Make sure gender-specific changing areas are available.  
  • Ask players for their ideas on venue improvements. 
  • Plan travel and overnight stays to reduce risks. 
  • Check all players are comfortable with changing and travel arrangements. 
  • Know the law and guidelines to keep everyone safe.
  • Monitor the club's websites and social media, and ensure offensive or illegal content is dealt with promptly and effectively. 

Making football environments safer ensures football stays safe, fun and inclusive.