3 min

Royal Dutch Football Association includes Kiwa's Safe Social Climate label in licence requirements for professional football

Cross-border behaviour in sport is still too common and regularly makes the news. However, a systematic approach has so far been lacking in the Netherlands. When Toon Gerbrands, director of the well-known Dutch football club PSV indicated in November 2020 that he wanted to take the lead for a Safe Social Climate Label (Veilig Sociaal Klimaat label), Kiwa was one of the parties who came forward to realise this initiative.

Kiwa developed a guideline that was successfully piloted at the PSV Academy, a special youth department for education and training of Dutch young football talent. In 2021, Kiwa launched the Safe Social Climate label, designed to combat cross-border behaviour at sports clubs. One year later, in November 2022, Kiwa and the KNVB, the Royal Dutch Football Association, signed a three-year agreement to include the label in the licence requirements for professional football.

Kiwa's Safe Social Climate label helps organisations combat cross-border behaviour, racism and discrimination. Dutch “Eredivisie” clubs, the highest football division in the Netherlands in the professional men's league, are already starting to use the label, led by the KNVB. Also several Dutch amateur football clubs are already working with the quality label. An important step, because football is one of the most practised sports within sport clubs in the Netherlands.

Added value of Safe Social Climate label

Scheme manager Anne van Diemen from Kiwa developed the Safe Social Climate label. She explains the added value of the label for sports clubs: "With the help of the quality label, there is a structural and independent assessment of whether a club has properly anchored the prevention of cross-border behaviour. Are there welfare officers, does everyone know how to find them, is it a topic of conversation and do they respond well to signals within the club? In addition to these preventive measures, it is important to properly identify and act on signals. By picking these up properly and recording measures, the requirements from the label offer the club the opportunity to learn continuously. A club can then work ever better at providing a safe environment for everyone!"

Focusing on prevention

Policies around cross-border behaviour are often about what to do after an incident. When developing the label, Anne focused on prevention. She tells: "The label was indeed designed on the basis of a safety management system in which, in addition to a policy, protocols and acting on incidents, learning and improvement from all signals is addressed. Despite prevention, you can never completely prevent cross-border behaviour, so it is important to respond and learn from it quickly and properly. By setting up a safety management system, you include everyone in what it takes to be a safe club, where there is openness, where people look out for each other, where you can be who you are in order to create a safe social climate together."


Annual audit by Kiwa

On the basis of an annual audit, Kiwa plays an important role in checking whether clubs working with the quality label are doing so correctly. Anne explains: "As an independent party, Kiwa checks whether all preventive tasks have been carried out within a club and whether the right actions are taken when there are signs. In addition, Kiwa assesses whether the club is also learning and continuously improving. We assess whether the safety management system is running well. We visit the club for this purpose. We are independent assessors who look together with the clubs to see how they can improve on a safe social climate."

Any imperfections uncovered during the audit are reported to the KNVB licensing committee. This can draw up an improvement plan with the relevant professional football club and provide support in this if necessary.

When is an audit according to the label's requirements successful? Anne tells: "When the club meets the requirements and the topic of cross-border behaviour is known to everyone and openly discussed within a club. When everyone is aware that creating a safe climate within the club is everyone's job and responsibility."

Better recognition of signals

According Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football KNVB, it is imperative that there is a safe environment for everyone working in professional football. She explains: “The prevention of cross-border behaviour is very important to us and that is partly why there is a licence requirement on this. We are very pleased that Kiwa is going to support our members meeting the requirements of the Safe Social Climate label. In this way, clubs will learn to better recognise signs of cross-border behaviour and to better guide people involved.”

Continuously working on safe social climate

A sports federation can motivate its members, the sports clubs, to set up a safety management system precisely on the tricky issue of cross-border behaviour. They can also encourage clubs to obtain the label to show that they are continuously working on a safe social climate. The label provides sports clubs with tools to do everything in their power to tackle cross-border behaviour and ensure safety. Would you like to know more about the Safe Social Climate label that Kiwa helped develop? Check out the Kiwa Netherlands' website or contact us for more information.

Three pillars

In its licence requirements, the KNVB has long been pushing for a safe social climate at football clubs. With the availability of the Safe Social Climate label, professional football organisations can now put this into practice more effectively. With the label, clubs have a tool for setting up and monitoring a safe sports environment, fully tailored to the sports sector. The Safe Social Climate label stands for the systematic prevention of cross-border behaviour in all parts of the organisation, from the first team to office staff. The label consists of three pillars:

  1. All employees of a club must have access to an independent confidential (contact) person where they can tell their story in a safe environment;
  2. Every employee is familiar with the principles of a safe social climate and recognises cross-border behaviour. Staff working with youth must have a Certificate of Good Conduct (Dutch: VOG);
  3. A club must have a step-by-step plan for reporting, so that those involved can be guided when abuses occur and the organisation will improve the safe social climate.