Salisbury Rovers, Wiltshire FA, Voice of a child, children rights in football


Wiltshire FA affiliated club, Salisbury Rovers is championing child first coaching, offering a children’s rights based approach, and creating an environment in which children are prioritised and can develop.

Club Founder and Coach, Debbie Sayers said “Salisbury Rovers has a very specific identity and purpose. We are passionate about the child’s voice being represented in the game, encouraging children to have a real say in how sessions are run.

“Ultimately the joy of football is at the heart of everything we do, with the aim to keep children in the game long term, allowing them to take ownership of their play and make their own decisions.

We believe, if you love it, you’ll go as far as your potential will take you.”

Salisbury Rovers has a unique, child-led coaching philosophy, prioritising play and coaching with a constraint led approach, providing an environment for learning and decision making, without dictating so children have a voice and coaches facilitate rather than direct the game.

Debbie adds, “Our players are encouraged to think about the game, our coaches use game design questions to prompt and develop learning.”

Wiltshire FA aim to keep players in the game, knowing taking part in physical activity can have a profound and positive effect on mental wellbeing as well as providing many life skills such as resilience, teamwork and communication.

It has been documented there can be a spike of young players leaving the game in teenage years for many reasons including pressure, prioritising time and confidence.

Maria Lai, Designated Safeguarding Officer at Wiltshire FA said, “It is great to hear about this approach to coaching at Salisbury Rovers. We share the aim to retain players and keep them in the sport long term, and this positive environment will support some players to stay in the game and thrive.

“We as a County FA can also learn from the Salisbury Rovers approach when it comes to Safeguarding. We must engage and listen to our young audiences, making sure they are safe and have the opportunity to be heard, so the work Debbie and Salisbury Rovers have been doing is very interesting.”

Salisbury Rovers use the strapline ‘Nothing about us, without us’ when speaking about young people in the club.

Debbie concludes, “We respect the rights of children at our club. We seek out their views and act on their suggestions. It really is about them. Their choice. Their journey.”

Find out more about the work Salisbury Rovers FC have been involved in below.

Salisbury Rovers

As a result of adopting this approach, Salisbury Rovers has been involved in various projects including:

Children’s Coaching Collaborative

Salisbury Rovers is a founder member of the Children’s Coaching Collaborative (CCC). This is a collective of like-minded organisations with a common purpose and desire to effect change for the better together. Recognising the role coaches play in enabling children’s enjoyment of physical activity, the CCC wants to create a nation of “child-first” coaches. The CCC is underpinned by a moral and legal mandate which defines the case for child-first coaching:

  • The right to play: Coaching benefits children and young people when it empowers them to play freely and shape their own experiences.
  • The right to develop: All children and young people deserve an equal chance to develop through sport and physical activity.
  • The right to be heard: Every child and young person should be seen, heard and valued in the coaching environment.
Find out more
Salisbury Rovers, Wiltshire FA, Voice of a child

Salisbury Rovers speaking at the Play Their Way summit in Leeds in December                       

Salisbury Rovers, Wiltshire FA, Voice of a child

Keir & Aaron (Wiltshire FA Youth Council Members) were also chosen to present an award on behalf of the CCC at the UK Coaching Awards

FA Research Project with Chichester University on the Children's Voice

Contributing to the FA strategy, 'Building an Ever-Safer Culture', Salisbury Rovers is supporting a research project with Chichester University on the voice of a child.

Read more about the strategy here

Open University Course - Children's Rights in Football

The Open University have launched a free introductory course on the concept of children's rights in sport. Looking at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the course looks at why children’s rights are fundamental to every young person’s experience of football. The course features Salisbury Rovers and Southampton FC as well as an interview with former professional footballer and legendary Manchester United coach, Tony Whelan.

Find out more about the course here

Salisbury Rovers, Wiltshire FA, Voice of a child

FIFA Guardians

The work Salisbury Rovers is doing to embed the rights of children has been noticed by FIFA Guardians safeguarding courses and the club feature in Course 4 and 5.

FIFA Guardians offers courses to promote children’s wellbeing in football and develop a comprehensive approach to safeguarding best practice throughout the game. Showcasing Salisbury Rovers, FIFA Guardians shares the club’s approach to children’s rights in the game demonstrating how they encourage independence and choice with the long term aim to keep children in the game.       

The FIFA Guardians sport education programme offers a Safeguarding in Sport Diploma as well as an open learning experience to everyone from grassroots to the professional game.

To achieve the diploma, FIFA Learners complete five courses, tutor forums, webinars, assessments and interactive workshops.

Presenting at the FIFA Safeguarding Diploma course at St George's Park in March, Club Founder, Debbie Sayers, and u18 player and coach Keir Doherty (a member of Wiltshire FA’s Youth Council) are sharing Salisbury Rovers' philosophy to national safeguarding leads from around 70 FIFA Member Associations.


Find out more about FIFA Guardians


Critical Issues in Football – A Sociological Analysis of the Beautiful Game

Showcasing some of the most important current research in football studies, the book Critical Issues in Football – A Sociological Analysis of the Beautiful Game, demonstrates the value of social theory and sociology in helping us to better understand the world’s favourite sport.

Highlighting critical new light on key issues in contemporary football, with each chapter using a different theoretical lens, Debbie has co-written Chapter 5 – An Alternative Lens for Grassroots Sport: De-schooling Football, discussing Salisbury Rovers and its philosophy that children need to play for themselves and not for adults.

Find out more about the book