Initiative for child protection with Kimmich, Benkarth and Obst
© Fotos: Julian Baumann
With its club-wide initiative "Red Line - protecting and empowering children", FC Bayern is sending a clear signal for the protection of children and young people. The message is unambiguous: the club is there for you! Well over 30,000 children and young people are currently members of FC Bayern, and over 600 of them are active in the club's various sections. In addition, the Kids Club has around 44,000 minors as members. The club has been gradually improving its position with regard to child protection for years and now also wants to raise public awareness.
'Red Line - protecting and empowering children'
True to the slogan "Red Line - protecting and empowering children", Joshua Kimmich, FC Bayern Women goalkeeper Laura Benkarth and basketball player Andreas Obst are campaigning for the active protection of children and young people. The aim is to further remove taboos from a difficult issue, to create transparency and awareness, and to deter perpetrators by the club saying: We are aware of our responsibility, we will live up to it!
FC Bayern is committed to combating any form of violence towards children and young people, be it physical, psychological or sexualised. Walter Mennekes, as deputy vice-president responsible for the sections, has been referring to this for years, among other things, in his speeches at the annual general meetings. "Our objective is the best possible protection of children and young people, which is why all those involved in working with our young players are sensitised to these issues in order to establish a culture of being observant at our club," elaborated Benny Folkmann, managing director of FC Bayern eV.
„Our objective is the best possible protection of children and young people, which is why all those involved in working with our young people are sensitised to these issues in order to establish a culture of being observant at our club.”
Various club-wide measures have already been implemented. Among other things, the presentation of an enhanced police clearance certificate as well as the signing of a self-commitment declaration and the acceptance of the code of conduct developed with Kindernothilfe are obligatory for all those who work with children and young people. In addition, a separate position has been created: Eric Mbarga, as child protection and prevention officer, is not only available as a contact person at all times, but also works proactively to prevent situations everyone would like to avoid arising in the first place.
Prevention is a central keyword, says Dr Eva Zier, who as team leader for educational matters at the FC Bayern Campus acts as a crucial interface: "It's about creating awareness and building trust among everyone." The specially created position of child protection officer goes beyond the requirements of the DFL. In the Bundesliga, it is a unique selling point for FC Bayern; no other youth development centre can boast a comparable position.
It was a recommendation from Kindernothilfe to also go public with the issue of child protection. The organisation is a great help to the club; among other things, it prepares a risk and danger potential analysis for all departments and sees transparency as an important stylistic device to promote a broader awareness in society. That's why a major role is also played by the three ambassadors from the three senior teams, with whom individually tailored slogans have been developed.
Kimmich, who is the midfield general and driving force at the centre of his team on the pitch, represents the message "Recognise signals and act - beyond the game". In a nutshell, this is the first step in the protection of children and young people, explains Dr. Zier. "Paying attention, classifying signs and taking them seriously, that is the basic prerequisite." The slogan that basketball player Obst has adopted for the initiative is primarily directed at the adults who work with children and young people: "Accept clear boundaries and rules - not only on the court." Overview is the central idea here, just like in basketball. Child protection is not about control or putting everyone who works with children and young people under general suspicion, explains Dr Zier. "What is crucial is a mindful approach to each other in all situations." Laura Benkarth illustrates the basis for this in the context of "Red Line" from the view of the goalkeeper, who is always a safe back-up for her team, promoting the approach of "Respect and trust - creating room for self-determination". The child must be believed, says Dr Zier. "For a child to open up, they need trust and safety - we have to create the space for this. Only a strong child will ultimately dare to say no."
When in doubt, children attribute themselves with having done something wrong. "Questions of guilt and shame then arise," explains Dr Zier. All this makes it difficult for children to open up. According to studies, a child will make several attempts before he or she really brings the matter up when something has happened. "That's why it's so important to work preventively," says the educator, "and to empower the children so that they themselves recognise what their rights are."
External experts hope that sustainable initiatives like FC Bayern's "Red Line" will have an effect on other clubs and institutions. The tenor is that the German record champions are acting as a role model that should set an example. FC Bayern will continue along this path. Parents entrust the club with what is most important to them: their children. FC Bayern is aware of this responsibility. And this responsibility could not be greater.
The full-length article is available (in German) in the November issue of the FC Bayern members' magazine "51"