WhatsApp is a great tool for keeping in touch with mates, but it is a whole other beast when it comes to managing a large team or group. In these days of enhanced data protection and important safeguarding responsibilities, an app that offers no guarantee of oversight or traceability is a big no-no, and could even get group admins and coaches in trouble with the law, which is why clubs like Banbury Hockey are switching to dedicated team management platforms like Spond.
More and more clubs and teams are stopping the use of messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, as they make it more complex to meet legal and regulatory requirements imposed by GDPR in Europe and similar laws being introduced in many US states, such as California’s CCPA. Instead, they are turning to dedicated sports team management platforms, such as Spond, which offer a more accessible and compliant tool for admins, members and parents/guardians to keep in touch.
Banbury Hockey Club is just one example of a club that now bans WhatsApp as a messaging tool for all of its teams, regardless of age or seniority. Treasurer Gary White explained: “With so many rules now applying to sports clubs, especially those with members under 18, you need the right tools to ensure that data and safeguarding guidelines are being met.
“We had teams using various platforms, including WhatsApp, and it just got complicated. For example, some teams contain both junior and senior age members. A senior member might post content in a message, maybe banter, that was not offensive per se, but could be considered inappropriate for a younger audience, and that’s obviously problematic, so we needed a platform where we could set rules as appropriate and keep an eye on things.
“WhatsApp is a great messaging tool, but where oversight and accountability are required, it’s simply not fit for purpose. We need to be able to monitor the conversations our members are having and, even more importantly, know that a record of all interactions is kept so that it can be reviewed in future if necessary. That’s why we took the decision as a club to specifically ban the use of WhatsApp for any member communications.”
Trine Falnes, Spond CEO, commented: “Banbury Hockey is not the first sports club or team to ban WhatsApp, and it won’t be the last. Under GDPR in the UK, and similar laws elsewhere, consent is only valid if the giver is fully informed, it is freely given and as simple to withdraw as it is to provide. With messaging apps like WhatsApp this simply isn’t possible, and I don’t mean that as a criticism; it’s simply not what they were designed to do.
“For sports clubs receiving a subject access request (SAR) under GDPR, it’s also vital that they can access and retrieve all communication pertaining to the individual making the request. If the data is in WhatsApp, it could be deleted by the users, and that’s assuming the club even has access. There is even concern over the geographic location of where data is stored.
“The challenges of using WhatsApp as an admin tool for sport are obvious, and that’s before we even get on to safeguarding issues, so the basic message needs to be that, while WhatsApp can be a great direct messaging tool, these platforms are not suitable for grassroots sports clubs and teams. You need to use a dedicated communications platform, with GDPR compliance and safeguarding features built-in, which is where a company like Spond can provide a ready-made solution.”
Of course, the question of traceability and oversight for grassroots sports teams and groups is nothing new, but with more and more focus on the safeguarding and wellbeing of members, particularly those under 18, alongside the growing proliferation of messaging tools in recent years, the issue has become increasingly prominent. While some clubs have looked for solutions to make messaging tools such as WhatsApp compliant, the truth is that it’s easier to switch to a dedicated platform that, if used correctly, will overcome most of the potential pitfalls for you.
Most grassroots sports admins and coaches are volunteers, which means they want to spend more time on the sport they love, without wasting valuable time on GDPR compliance, safeguarding reports and other clerical tasks. With a platform like Spond, which saves 2.5 hours every week for the average coach, this can be easily achieved, along with the reassurance that all member interactions are fully compliant and transparent.
You can download Spond for free today. To find out more about Spond or arrange a free demo, visit www.spond.com.