VIOLENCE IN SPORT

Violence in sport is tolerated more than in other contexts, so we tell you everything you need to know to identify it and stop it.

Violence in sport is a problem with a large "black number": its violent expressions often go unreported and unreported. In addition, there is a macho element that is unfortunately still very present in the sporting landscape. According to the report, 97% of those sanctioned for acts of violence in the sporting arena are men. Why does sport have such a high level of tolerance for violence? The report of a leading university shows that acts of violence are indeed tolerated, which in other contexts of society would not be tolerated at all.

For Avendaño, a sociologist of great prestige in Venezuela, one of the keys lies in the fact that "as the public in sporting competitions move within much wider limits of permissibility, as they are motivated to achieve motivation and identification, as well as being in a game in which tensions between groups are about to explode, it would be no surprise if they often lose control, behaving in a way that causes injuries to other people and things around them". In other words, there is a special tolerance for violent behaviour in sport that does not exist in other social spheres, and which often stems from the feeling of "mass" and the anonymity it allows to commit it and get away with it.

 

TYPES OF VIOLENCE

While it is true that there are sports that must integrate some violence and physical contact, there are limits that must not be exceeded, such as peer harassment, sexual abuse or racism and xenophobia.

As for sexual abuse, statistics show that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused. Experts warn of the difficulty of reporting it, as socially it implies a certain taboo for many people as it is very difficult to take the step of filing a complaint. Sadly, sport is one of the favourite areas for sexual abusers, along with the family and school, as they are places where there is a certain hierarchy of power.

An example of this is the testimony of Ane, a Spanish girl who revealed some of this kind of harassment in a newspaper: "My name is Ane and last year I was the youngest girl to reach the finals of the national rhythmic gymnastics championship. This year I really want to get into the U18 national team, I'm only thinking about it. That's why I was so happy when the coach called me to offer me a place in the team. He told me that he had chosen me personally and that made me feel very special. From then on, everything went from bad to worse. The coach kept telling me how well I was doing and that if I followed his advice I would achieve my dreams. But in training he was very harsh every time I failed an exercise and there were insults, punishments and he made me look ridiculous in front of the other teammates. He started offering to give me private lessons at his house in the afternoons to help me improve, being overly affectionate with me and the other girls, or coming into my room at the hotel without warning. One of these times he even started caressing me over my tights, and I ended up running out of the room in tears.

Male chauvinism is another major problem, as in the field of sport, many disciplines have systematically excluded women from the sport. Decision-making positions in many committees, federations and clubs, even to this day, are mostly held by men, which makes it difficult to create a culture of equality in sport. Male aggressions and violence are widely known, but often the sporting ones are not so well known.

 

Thirdly, one of the most visible problems is racism and xenophobia, since in an increasingly diverse, plural, multicultural and interracial society, there are people who are unable to value what people of other ethnicities and origins can contribute. This gives rise to racist and xenophobic attacks, usually motivated by origin (against Roma, for example) or race (against black people). Although the most outrageous examples involve physical and verbal aggression, often more important is the element of social exclusion that we saw in peer aggression, which lies in pushing away, not allowing participation and ignoring peers for racial reasons. An example of this was the interruption of a Champions League match between PSG football club and Istanbul to denounce the racism of a referee. As a result, some countries have incorporated laws against racism in sport into their legislation (in Spain, Law 19/2007, of 11 July, against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport).

Another example is that of Herbert Hainer, President of FC Bayern München: "The war in Ukraine and the terrible situation of its people show us once again the importance of shared values and solidarity. Our world is based on cohesion and togetherness. In sport, rivalry is part of the game, people are often divided into colours. But when it comes to core social values, we lead by example together. Because sport connects people, regardless of their origin or skin colour, beyond the playing field. With its "Red Against Racism" initiative, FC Bayern is continuously committed to tolerance and diversity. Now, together with all professional teams in Munich and our mayor Dieter Reiter, we are sending out another clear signal: Racism has no place in sport and society.

In the case of peer harassment, it is one of the most complex types of violence in sport, as it mostly occurs between athletes themselves. In the last decade we have referred to this form of harassment using the anglicism "bullying". According to reports by the Ombudsman and UNICEF based on bullying among peers in secondary school settings, this type of violence has four main manifestations. Social exclusion, which can be active (not allowing participation) or passive (ignoring the peer). Verbal aggression, which also has a direct form (name-calling, offensive nicknames) and a passive form (bad-mouthing a peer, spreading false rumours about him or her). Physical aggression, which can be direct (hitting the victim) or indirect (hiding, breaking or stealing the victim's belongings). Finally, mixed abuse, a wide range of behaviours including threats, blackmail, and even sexual harassment, which can be both physical and verbal.

 

HOW TO PREVENT AND END THIS VIOLENCE

As several experts and sociologists point out, the solution lies in education in human values and raising awareness in society in general. To this end, it is essential to weave complicity between all members of the sports ecosystem, educational centres, institutions and sports leaders. In addition, the implementation of "zero tolerance" policies is necessary to be able to report each and every case.

Furthermore, if you are a coach, the first thing is to be an exemplary role model for children and their peers. From these lines, we have the firm conviction that if you want to, you can. That is to say, we believe that aggression in sport can be minimised to a large extent, but it is clear to us that in order to do so, all parties must be involved (athletes, coaches, institutions and public and private entities).

The saddest thing is that some influential people in the world of sport promote violence instead of discouraging it because it is a product that sells, consumes media and generates revenue. So as long as this attitude is allowed, there is really little hope of minimising the problem on a global scale.