Can sports clubs oblige players to shower naked? 

Protests voiced by parents of a number of young players at football club Berchem Sport (Antwerp) have put the spotlight on the issue again: can sports clubs oblige players to shower naked? Or is this a bridge too far? The Centre for Sports Ethics is receiving an increasing number of questions on this issue, it turns out. 

Berchem Sport introduced a rule that players under the age of 17 have to shower naked after a training session; those above 17 are exempt to respect an Islam tradition: "Showering naked turns out to be a problem for youngsters adhering the Islam, a problem related to reaching adulthood. We respect this and will only oblige naked showering until the age of 17. As from the age of 17, players are free to leave their underwear on", Berchem Sport told the parents in a letter. The club supports naked showering for hygienic reasons, among other things.

After the issue made the headlines this morning, the club withdrew the obligation. Nevertheless, the debate continues. 

To impose this on youngsters, is really not a good idea

The issue raises the question whether a sports club can actually impose this kind of rule on players. Simon De Vriendt of the Centre for Sports Ethics understands the clubs' request: "It's an important form of teambuilding, so I can understand coaches who don't like the idea of certain players not participating", he told the VRT's Radio 1 morning show "De Ochtend".  "However, to impose this on youngsters, is really not a good idea. This is part of their physical integrity, they should be able to decide about this themselves." 

The Centre is receiving more questions on the issue than in the past. "More youngsters are seeing naked showering as a problem. This is linked to religion and culture, but also to the fear of pictures being taken. There is always a camera somewhere nowadays, and a photo can easily be posted on social media."