A safe and well-functioned sports environment for children and youth does not include live streaming

A number of the Confederation of Danish Sports’ federations – i.a. The Danish Handball Federation (DHF), the Danish Ice Hockey Federation (DIU), the Danish Basketball Federation, Floorball Denmark and Volleyball Denmark – have during the past year entered into cooperation agreements with the international, commercial company “Sportway” for live streaming of children’s and youth matches and tournements. The agreements mean that cameras with artificial intelligence are now installed in more than 100 indoor sports halls in Denmark. There can be good arguments for live streaming of matches at senior elite level, not least in sports that have difficulty obtaining direct transmissions on nationwide television. But when it comes to matches and tournaments for children and youth under the age of 18, the disadvantages of live streaming training, matches and tournements far outweigh the advantages. The board of the Conferation of Danish Sports (DIF) reached the same conclusion a few days ago after more than half a year of dialogue meetings with the above federations, selected municipalities, commercial streaming companies, national sports organizations in Sweden and Norway and not least professional knowledge institutions such as “Conditions of Children” and Team Denmark, both of which are something and more than “experts in their own sports”. DIF’s official recommendation is “… that DIF’s federations should not live-stream matches, performances, training sessions, competitions and tournements for children and youth under the age of 18”.

DIF’s recommendations lack a legal analysis

DIF’s written note on live streaming of sports for children and youth contains a definition of the concept and a description of “the well-functioned and safe sports environment for children and youth”, potential risks and benefits of live streaming for children and youth, as well as a number of “important considerations”, questions and “guide to live streaming in practice” for federations, who do not wish to follow DIF’s recommendation. The ethical considerations, questions and the guide contain many qualities, but DIF’s note lacks – unfortunately – a legal analysis of whether live streaming of children and youth is legal, i.a. in relation to the personal data regulation (GDPR), which applies to all EU countries – including Denmark.

Some federations continue (apparently) with live streaming of children and youth

It will of course now be interesting to follow the decisions of the individual federations and elite sport municipalities regarding (continued) use of live streaming of sports for children and youth under 18 years of age. Some associations – Swim Danmark, Volleyball Denmark, Danish Basketball Federation, Floorball Denmark and Denmark’s Ice Hockey Federation – have decided to continue with live streaming to a greater or lesser extent, while the Danish Handball Federation has not yet made a final decision.

Direct contrast between Age-related Training (ATK) and live streaming

However, it will be far more interesting to follow Team Denmark’s decision to cooperate with – and thereby also provide financial support to – federations that do not follow DIF’s recommendations on “the well-functioned and safe sports environment for children and youth”. Live streaming of sports for children and youth under the age of 18 will be in direct contrast with recent years’ research on ” social sustainable sports environments” for youth and Team Denmark’s recommendations on age-related training (ATK). Sports psychologists Kristoffer Henriksen and Carsten Hvid Larsen from the University of Southern Denmark – who have also been associated with Team Denmark for a number of years – highlight ” …. that for children and youth, it is important to have an inner drive and willingness to train, a passion of sport, good friendships and a balanced identity, where there is room to feel both human and athlete, as well as a desire to take responsibility for one’s own development ”. And further ” … not least to create a safe and well-functioned environment without too much focus on results. The goal must be for young people to thrive, develop and stay in the sport” (ATK 2.0 – Training of children and youth, Team Denmark, 2015).

Talent development with ethics, values and legal obligations

Team Denmark’s collaboration with currently 25 out of DIF’s 62 associations are based on the Act on Elite sports and legal collaboration agreements, which typically applies for a period of 4 years. The purpose and content of the collaboration is described in Team Denmark’s strategy and support concept, where talent development – the individual federations’ activities for children and youth under the age of 18 – constitute a very significant part. The talent development has focus on developing and strengthening the quality of talent environments in clubs and elite sport municipalities, which happens through sports schools, youth education, dual career, age-related training (ATK), “Values for talent development in Danish sports” and much more. These activities cannot be “opted out” by Team Denmark’s partners, neither federations, clubs, elite sport municipalities, schools or educational institutions. The current legal cooperation agreements emphasize ” … that the individual confederation undertakes to implement and comply with Team Denmark’s and DIF’s overall rules and policies, including the “Code of Ethics for Danish competitive sports” and “Values for talent development in Danish sports”.

There is a difference between a member organization and a statutory knowledge institution

Team Denmark’s current strategy and support concept will expire at the end of 2024, i.e. in 18 months. This also means that the preparations and internal discussions in the elite sports institution about objectives, strategies, efforts and new initiatives in the upcoming support concept 2025-2028 have (hopefully) begun. In this connection, there can – and should, in my opinion – be a significant difference between DIF’s and Team Denmark’s words and actions in relation to live-streaming for children and youth under 18 years of age. Namely, Team Denmark is – cf. the Act of Elite Sports – obliged to set a number of requirements and criteria towards the federations and elite sport municipalities in relation to the development of talent in elite sports in an ethical, social and socially responsible manner. My recommendation for Team Denmark’s strategy and support concept 2025-2028 regarding talent development is clear and unambiguous: Federations and elite sport municipalities must comply with DIF’s recommendation not to live-stream sports for children and youth under the age of 18.