More than 160 cases of sports coaches engaging in sexual activities with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care since 2016 have been exposed by a BBC investigation.
Certain adults in a position of authority – such as teachers, police officers and social workers – are not permitted to have any sexual contact with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.
For 20 years, The Christian Institute has been calling for this to also apply to sports coaches.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
A Freedom of Information request to councils in England and Wales uncovered 1,481 formal complaints against people in positions of authority who engaged in sexual activity with 16 and 17-year-olds in the past four years.
Of these reports, 164 related to sports coaches or other adults working in sport, but were not prosecuted as such conduct is not unlawful.
Sarah Champion MP said the figures were “the tip of the iceberg”, saying that the vast majority of cases will never be reported.
She said part of the reason is that “these sports coaches are grooming these children into believing they are in a legitimate relationship. It’s not. It’s an abuse of their power position.”
The MP for Rotherham criticised the Government for its lack of action in this area: “There is a gaping legal loophole that perpetrators of child abuse are walking straight into.
“I’ve been raising this with government for six years now and my frustration is that we keep on having reviews. In the intervening years while the government hasn’t acted and has just had consultation after consultation, more children have had their lives wrecked.”
Last month, former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch used a Ten Minute Rule Bill to call for the abuse of trust offence to be extended to sports coaches, having campaigned for a change in the law since 2017.
During the debate in the House of Commons, she said: “Anyone in a position to influence the direction of another person’s journey through life, meaning that a power balance rests with them, should not be able to abuse that position by a sexual relationship.”