A passion that leads to bullying, pressure, and even worse.

Three quarters of children who play sports have been victims of psychological or physical abuse, according to a study of more than 10,000 people in six European countries published on Saturday.

The most common form of abuse is psychological, ranging from lack of appreciation on the part of coaches to outright humiliation, according to this European Union-funded study.

Almost two-thirds of those questioned said they had suffered psychological violence, while 44% had been victims of physical violence.

Protection forsaken

For the report's lead author, sports sociology professor Mike Hartill of Edge Hill University (North West England), the results show that various European sports leaders have done "too little" to protect children and must concretely do “much more than produce a posted policy”.

“Our findings are obviously very worrying.

We have seen a number of high profile cases of child abuse in sport lately, but this study helps us to understand more clearly the extent of the problem, ”said Mike Hartill.

The study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Wuppertal in Germany, interviewed people between the ages of 18 and 30 who had played sports as minors.

The highest incidence of abuse was seen among children who had participated in international competitions and the study showed that the abuse took place within the structure of clubs and sports organizations.

Boys more affected

A total of 10,302 people were interviewed in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Romania, Spain and Great Britain with the help of the Ipsos MORI polling institute. They were invited to complete an online questionnaire. The prevalence of abuse is highest in Belgium (80%) and in Austria it is comparatively lowest (70%). In all countries except Austria, boys were significantly more likely to experience violence.

The authors also said the report showed that many sports organizations had failed to extend their protection policies beyond guarantees against sexual violence.

According to Mike Hartill, "Unfortunately, these results indicate an industry that has done too little to tackle the deeply rooted issues in sport."

“The problem is ultimately rooted in the nature of relationships between adults and children in sport,” he says.

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