Professor David Lavallee has become the world’s first professor of duty of care in sport after being appointed to the position by Abertay University ©Abertay University

The world’s first professor of duty of care in sport has been appointed by Abertay University in Scottish city Dundee with the backing of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Professor David Lavallee takes up the unique position with a view to leading international research and education on a vast range of issues from bullying and harassment to equality and inclusion.

It comes just a few months after Baroness Tanni conducted an independent review into duty of care in sport on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of the British Government’s "Sporting Future" strategic plan.

Seven key recommendations were put forward when the 11-time Paralympic gold medallist’s year-long review was published in April.

These included a proposal for a Sports Ombudsman to be created by the Government, which would have the power to hold national governing bodies to account for the duty of care they provide.

An independent benchmark survey to measure duty of care, a Board member at all national governing bodies which are responsible for the subject and exit surveys for athletes leaving performance programmes were also suggested.

The establishment of a duty of care charter, the mandatory reporting of any suspected abuse and a Government-funded British Athletes Commission were among the other key recommendations.

The report was published amid criticism of British sporting bodies for the duty of care they have provided.

"I am delighted that Abertay University has taken the step to appoint a professor of duty of care," Baroness Tanni said.

"I was really impressed with the dedication that Professor Lavallee showed to the subject when I was working on my 'Duty of Care' report.

"He provided much valuable information and support and this is an exciting time for British sport."

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has given her backing to David Lavallee's appointment ©Getty Images
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has given her backing to David Lavallee's appointment ©Getty Images

Lavallee, an adjunct professor at the University of Limerick in the Republic of Ireland and recent recipient of a prestigious Erskine Fellowship at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, took up the new position at Abertay University in August 2017.

"This new professorship emphasises Abertay University’s commitment to sport education and research," he said.

"Sport around the world needs a robust duty of care approach in order to protect its unique position and impact in society.

"It is an important part of the next evolutionary phase of world class sporting systems.

"My role will focus on working in partnership with stakeholders who aspire to provide the highest duty of care in sport.

"High-quality, independent evidence and impartial analysis has a big part to play in creating a sustainable positive impact on people involved in sport, both now and in the future.

"My work will also focus on providing education on duty of care in sport to inform and influence the next generation of leaders in sport."

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl admitted in June that issues exposed in some sports over recent months are "very concerning", before insisting they are being addressed.

A review into the culture of British Cycling’s world-class performance programme concluded that some athletes had complained of a "lack of encouragement or support", while staff members referred to a "culture of fear in the organisation".

British Cycling is one of national governing bodies to have received criticism over its duty of care in recent months ©Getty Images
British Cycling is one of national governing bodies to have received criticism over its duty of care in recent months ©Getty Images

A report into the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association also claimed that a senior coach had been accused of racism.

Other sports have also been at the centre of allegations, including claims of bullying made to Paralympic squad members by an unnamed coach at British Swimming.

In March, the organisation launched an "independent fact-finding investigation" after the claims were made.

The investigation is ongoing.

"Duty of care is an extremely important and topical issue," Mike Whittingham, director of Sportscotland Institute of Sport, said.

"The UK has been enjoying an unprecedented period of success since 2008 and Scotland, through the Institute of Sport, has made a massive contribution.

"Our system is based on a philosophy of high challenge accompanied by high support.

"David Lavallee is a world-leading expert in performance transitions and has been working with us for some years now to ensure we get the balance right and create the necessary supporting culture including a robust duty of care policy and package.

"We believe Scotland can lead exciting new fields and we are delighted that Abertay University has had the foresight to appoint Professor David Lavallee to lead this area from an academic perspective."

Lavallee is originally from Boston in Massachusetts and studied philosophy and then psychology. 

He is a graduate of Harvard University, a principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy and played international football for the United States.