Susan Bissell, Director of UNICEF’s Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children

I have worked for UNICEF since the late 1980s, and been moving from Sri Lanka, to Bangladesh, to India and then onward to the research centre in Florence, Italy. It was there that I met Celia – a force of nature with a passion for rights and justice and protection that I’d never before seen in an academic. I was instantly full of admiration for Celia’s work on protection and violence and exploitation in sport. And she came to me not solo but with some incredible peers. What is great about moving around the world with UNICEF is the people you meet and have the privilege to work with. In the case of Celia I really have to say our collaboration was one of the most important of my career. Why? Her generosity, intellectually and, frankly, as a person. She allowed me into a world she’d created over decades, in order to bring focus to children, their protection in sport, and an end to the violence and exploitation they experience all over the world. It is unusual for someone to be so willing to share both knowledge and networks, and to do so with a twinkle in her eye, a wry bit of humour in her turn of phrase.

It is truly thanks to Celia that as we operationalise this new Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children that safey and security in children’s sport are squarely on the agenda. I’m certain that millions of children the world over, every day, play safe and free from fear because of you, Celia.

Fondly and full of admiration,

— Dr Susan Bissell is Director of UNICEF’s Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Dr Bissell and Celia worked together at the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, where Susan led a research unit and a number of studies. These included a 62-country study on the implementation of the general measures of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and global research on the Palermo Protocol and child trafficking. Dr Bissell was also a member of the Editorial Board of the report of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children, which was released in 2006.

Anne Tiivas, Director of the Child Protection Unit in Sport (CPSU)

I first met Celia Brackenridge back in the early 2000’s. I have never known anybody who is as committed to ensuring the safety of young athletes in sport. Celia’s contribution to athlete wellbeing, both for young athletes and for older athletes, has been immeasurable. This is both in terms of her research contribution and her ability to work with and challenge others to make a difference to athletes’ experiences of sport. Without Celia’s contribution to athlete wellbeing I can honestly say that I don’t believe the Child Protection Unit would ever have been set up. She tirelessly campaigned for pioneering work to be done in this area.

— Anne Tiivas joined the NSPCC in 2008 and is Director of the Child Protection Unit in Sport (CPSU). Celia and Ann worked together in establishing the CPSU, and through Celia being Chair of the CPSU’s Research Task Force from 2001-2008.

Sue Ravenlaw, Head of Equality and Safeguarding at the Football Association

“Professor Celia Brackenridge is one of a kind. Celia’s commitment to and diligence in her work over the decades, challenging sex discrimination, sexual harassment and child abuse in sport, has been both visionary and outstanding. I was privileged to be one of a team of people at the FA who worked closely with Celia and her team, when my predecessor Tony Pickerin initiated a ground-breaking research programme with Celia in the early 2000s, culminating in 2007 with the publication of a book, ‘Child Welfare in Football’. I am filled with deep gratitude for Celia’s professionalism, her profound work and her friendship.”

— Sue Ravenlaw, who joined the Football Association (FA) in 2000 to implement child protection policies and is currently their Head of Equality and Safeguarding. It was through this work with the FA that she first met Celia. Prior to this role she worked for the National Coaching Foundation.

Lucy Piggott and Lombe Mwambwa, PhD researchers at the University of Chichester

‘Who Rules Sport?’ was the first research paper of its kind that focused on the underrepresentation of women within British sports leadership. This paper was hugely important in identifying a lack of gender diversity within sports leadership as a problem which requires attention and change. The questions asked within this paper are still relevant today, and over 30 years later we are turning attention from who rules sport, to finding out more about why men continue to ‘rule sport’, and how we can change these patterns of female representation.

Louise Jacklin, who worked with Celia in WSF’s early days

After formally establishing the WSF with fellow academics, Celia turned her considerable energies to making the foundation ‘live’ as a national organisation that effectively could promote equalities, participation and equal opportunities for all women involved in sport.

As Chair of WSF from 1984 to 1988, and with her formidable networking skills, Celia successfully drew together support and active involvement across the country from women variously engaged with sport – in coaching, journalism, local authorities, elite performance, minority and non-traditional sports, disability access and grass roots sports development. The driving issue for WSF, which reflected Celia’s enduring vision, was to achieve equality for all women within the whole arena of sport. At this time, when significant inequality and discrimination existed as the norm, this was a very ambitious agenda. However, Celia was never a woman afraid to confront and tackle the big issues.

Celia operated through her network to establish an office for WSF in 1986, securing grant aid from the Sports Council, paid staff, and accommodation at the Women’s Centre, funded by Camden Council. This provided a centralised resource for WSF to co-ordinate its growing activities and membership, and to vigorously promote the equalities agenda. Although administration centred in London, Celia was continuously active on the national scene, pressing for change through the media and challenging the status quo held by governing bodies of sport. Under her inspiring leadership WSF developed a lead role, through its network vitality, to provide a shared voice and avenue for contesting the barriers to women’s opportunities.

Celia passed on the baton of WSF Chair to Anita White in 1988, but remained very active in her support of the foundation. Anita extended the work and profile of WSF, securing its formal recognition by the Sports Council as a national voluntary organisation.

Much was achieved in those early days of WSF. Although the landscape today is very different, with many more opportunities open to, and filled by women as leaders, participants, athletes, coaches and administrators, there are still lingering barriers to dismantle and discrimination to eradicate.

Celia truly deserves the appellation, Cometh the hour, cometh the woman, for her work and commitment to the nascent WSF, and to women and girls who love sport. Hopefully she won’t mind that this (slightly altered) term originated from men’s cricket, some decades before women were allowed to enter the Long Room at Lords.

— Louise Jacklin was a mature PE student at Bishop Otter College from 1973-1977, when Anita White was a PE lecturer there. She was President of the Students Union (75-76) and gained a B.Ed (Hons) Class 1. She joined the WSF at its inception in 1984. After teaching and lecturing Louise changed career into local government and undertook the WSF’s regional role as London Coordinator from 1986 to 1991.

Sandra Kirby, Professor Emerita, in Winnipeg, Canada

Way back in the 1980’s, Celia Brackenridge envisioned an international clearing house for research, policy development and activism on child protection in sport (later Safe Sport International (SSI)). This was long before research solidified into a cogent field of child protection work; long before the infamous Paul Hickson case in the UK and long before UNICEF and the IOC began to shine the light on intended harms in sport. Some of Celia’s early work on child abuse in sport leaned on abuse research in what we might now call youth serving organizations (e.g. schools, churches, day cares, orphanages). However, she has always viewed sport as a positive experience for most young people and knew that the underbelly of sport practice was different. Over those early years, Celia was largely alone in the field. Reporters would call asking for her expert opinions. Athletes would call to share their stories and ask for help. It can only have been a most difficult and challenging time for her, but her vision of a better sport for participants certainly kept her going.

The IOC Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse (IOC, 2007) defined the problems, identified the risk factors and set up some guidelines for prevention – all largely based on the work of a small cohort of researchers, activists, policy experts and athletes gathered under the leadership of Celia Brackenridge (UK) and Kari Fasting (NOR). The opportunity for experts to come together at the IOC for Celia was like “having all my Christmases in one year” – and she launched that into further work on child abuse and exploitation in sport. Over the next decade, she focused on opportunities to change sport – not because the research was complete, far from it, but because of the overwhelming need to do the right thing.

Safe Sport International (SSI) grew out of these gatherings – those supported by UNICEF at the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, the founding meeting of BIRNAW in 2012 and the gathering of experts (all 14 of us) in the UK in 2014 for the creation of of Safe Sport International. Our mission, globally, is to work together to create and disseminate knowledge that supports sport that is abuse and violence free. SSI, based in the UK but with a founding board of individuals from UK, NOR, CAN, USA and Hong Kong, is committed to expanding the knowledge base on safeguarding and athlete welfare in sport, and to moving athlete welfare to the centre of sport. Celia is committed to linking performance success to human rights and the welfare of athletes.

Celia has published her last book, Abuse in Sport - A Selection of Writings (BIRNAW, 2017) …”Ten months ago my life expectancy was nine and a half months: best not tarry then”. In that final publication, we have a window into some of her most profound thoughts about such diverse topics as safety for athletes in sport, global sport organisation, the threads of power and abuse of power, how to make decisions under pressure, travelling as an internationally renowned speaker and managing a private life. We at SSI are stunned at the profoundness of her work – to write this under such extremely difficult health challenges. As Trisha Leahy, co-chair of SSI has written, “Your voice on athlete safety will resound, resonate, and reverberate around the globe for a long time to come”. SSI is one, perhaps the most important, of Celia Brackenridge’s legacies.

— Sandra Kirby, Professor Emerita, Winnipeg, Canada
"I have had the honour and pleasure of working with Celia Brackenridge since 1994 on child protection in sport. I did the first national quantitative study on sexual harassment and abuse in sport (1996), which led to the first book ever published on the topic, The Dome of Silence: Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport (Kirby, Greaves and Hankivsky, Fernwood, 2000). We have several publications together and a lifetime of stories shared."

Kari Fasting, co-founder and former president of WSI

Celia Brackenridge is one of the founders of WomenSport International, whose mission is “to encourage increased opportunities and positive changes for women and girls at all levels of involvement in sport and physical activity". The idea to found an international umbrella organisation for women and sport came up at a conference in Melbourne in May in 1993, and half a year later in Ottawa it was agreed by a small group of influential women of which Celia was one. The Board (including Celia) was set up, and after the first years with a flat structure, the first election was held. Celia was elected as secretary and served from 1999-2002. From the beginning Celia contributed to the development of WSI including the logo, key objectives and statutes.

Some of the key objectives of WSI that Celia contributed to were that WSI should "identify and promote issues of importance for women and sport", "serve as an international advocacy group", and produce and/or disseminate educational materials and other information to enhance the experience of women and girls in sport and physical activity." Through Celia's work for WSI she contributed strongly to these objectives. First of all through the chairing of one of the first task forces of WSI, "Sexual Harassment", which was established in 1995. After only a few months she produced a pamphlet/brochure on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport with the following content: What are sexual harassment and sexual abuse? Who is at risk? And, always important in Celia's work: What should be done to help prevent sexual harassment and abuse in sport?

A few years later Celia and the task force produced the WSI position statements, containing paragraphs about Trust and Authority: Gender and Sexuality; Hazing; Resilience Building through Sport; Risk of sexual exploitation in sport, and Recommendations for Minimizing the risk of sexual exploitation in sport. Both of these were updated by Celia later as we gained more knowledge about non-accidental violence in sport. These brochures were distributed internationally at conferences and meetings, and were among the first written statements on this topic, and have influenced many institutions and organizations. The content that Celia developed by producing these brochures, she developed further and used in many contexts. Notably it was mirrored in much of her work for the IOC and UNICEF.

— Professor Kari Fasting - Emeritus Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and former President of WSI. She has worked with Celia for many years to address issues of sexual harassment in sport, using research evidence to convince sporting organizations of the importance of this issue. Like Celia, she is an influential scholar and activist.