The Flag Tool for Sport

Sep 25, 2023

What is it?

The Flag Tool for Sport is a valuable resource for athletes, parents, coaches, sports organizations, and the entire sport community. It was created to empower individuals and help them understand what to do if they witness or experience questionable behaviour. The Flag Tool is based on The Flag System for Sport, a framework to help determine if a behaviour is ok or not, and suggestions for possible ways to respond. It was developed in Belgium as the Sensoa Flag System©, and is licensed from the International Centre for Ethics in Sport.

How does it work?

The Flag Tool can be used to assess a real or hypothetical situation or behaviour. It’s a responsive survey where the outcome depends on your perception of a given situation. It is both a learning tool designed to be tested with multiple scenarios, and a guidance tool to help you understand what to do when you receive a certain result, and how to do it.

Flag system criteria

The Flag System was originally developed by Dr. Erika Frans. It uses six criteria and 4 additional factors to assess a behaviour, four flag colours to describe whether the behaviour is ok or not, and how serious that behaviour may be.

(Frans, E. (2018). Sensoa Flag System: Reacting to sexually (un)acceptable) behaviour of children and young people. Antwerp, Belgium – Apeldoorn -The Netherlands; Garant.)

  1. Was it voluntary?
    Did everyone choose to be in the situation of their own free will? Did everyone feel that they could say “stop” at any time and get out of the situation?
  2. Was there consent?
    Is there individual consent or societal agreement for the behaviour? A behaviour is only okay if all clearly agree and are comfortable with it.
  3. Was there equality?
    Inequality between those involved can be due to a difference in age, number of people, knowledge, intelligence, power, function of position, life experience, and maturity. In bullying situations, there is always inequality to the disadvantage of the victim.
  4. Was it appropriate for age or stage of development?
    The behaviour is appropriate for the age and level of development of the people involved. For people with a disability, this could be interpreted as level of functioning.
  5. Was it appropriate for the sport context?
    The behaviour fits within the roles and responsibilities of each person and are appropriate for the sport environment.
  6. Was there an impact?
    The people involved are not harmed, either by others or by themselves.

Additional Factors

  • Degree of intimacy
    (light, intrusive, or invasive)
  • Degree of impact
    (annoying, fearful, or prolonged anxiety)
  • Awareness
    (no awareness of consequences for the other, and knowledge that the other person is being harmed)

Flag colour meanings

Based on the criteria above, a “flag colour” can be chosen. You can use our Flag Tool for Sport to figure out which colour a behaviour may be.

Green Flag
Green flag behaviours are ok!

Yellow Flag
Yellow flag behaviours are are on the borderline between ok and not ok. They are minor behaviours that overstep people’s personal boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.

Red Flag
Red flag behaviours are inappropriate and unacceptable. These behaviours happen one or more times, and make people feel angry or upset.

Black Flag
Black flag behaviours are inappropriate and very seriously unacceptable. People can suffer from long-term damage. These behaviours can happen once or over a long time or many times and may be criminal.

How can you use it?

All behaviours lie somewhere on the spectrum between “totally OK” and “seriously not OK”, and this tool can help you figure out where on that spectrum a behaviour might be. It’s possible that two people could get different results when assessing the same behaviour – that’s alright, it’s an opportunity to have a discussion and figure things out together using the Flag Tool as a framework.

It only takes a couple minutes to answer the six simple questions and four yes/no follow-up questions. The information provided at the end of the survey will help you understand what to do should you encounter an incident – if it is necessary to report it, who to report it to, and how to properly report it. Reaching out for support is an important part of healing so the Flag Tool provides resources for mental health support as well.

Everything is done anonymously—no complaint will be filed, no information will be collected, and nothing will be tracked other than the number of people using the tool. It is completely free and designed to be used anytime and anywhere.

Flag Tool Poster

Download and print this Infographic poster to educate and promote easy access to the Flag Tool using the QR code.



The guidance below is intended as a quick reference and is not meant to be exhaustive.  IT DOES NOT, AND IS NOT INTENDED TO, CONSTITUTE OR PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE. Users are strongly encouraged to consult with any or all of child welfare, law enforcement and legal counsel as appropriate to a given situation. You should seek legal advice before acting in a way that may create or result in liability. We cannot guarantee that all information is always accurate or complete.