Abuse of trust report highlights failings in Scottish football

An independent report on the sexual exploitation of boys in Scottish football has raised serious concerns over abuse of trust in the game.

It is a criminal offence for an adult in certain positions of authority, such as teachers and social workers, to engage in sexual conduct with a 16 or 17-year-old. But this does not currently apply to sports coaches, music tutors or youth workers.

The Christian Institute has been campaigning for a change in the law for more than 20 years.


The review’s authors called on all clubs and organisations involved to make “a clear, unreserved, and public acknowledgment and apology to all those directly affected by the abuse”.

They said: “All of the circumstances described to the Review involved alleged abuse within relationships of trust where adults either apparently developed such relationships in order to sexually abuse or used the existence of such a relationship to create opportunities to abuse and/or persist in abusing young players.”

Over ninety recommendations were made in the report, including one that called on the Scottish FA to “refer to the spirit of the ‘relationships and position of trust’ legislation with a view to broadening the ‘relationships’ definition” across the national game.

According to the report, an estimated 325,000 children and young people in Scotland currently participate in football.


A Mr Campbell, who waived his anonymity for the purposes of the report, suffered alleged abuse as a player for Celtic Boy’s Club.

He told the review that, soon after he joined the club as a 13-year-old, one of the coaches began to touch him sexually. He says he was then sexually abused “dozens of times” over a four year period.

The review reported that it “was common knowledge” among Mr Campbell’s peer group that the coach was “engaged in sexual activity with young players”.


In 2018, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on modernising the existing laws protecting children from harm.

It reported: “On the abuse of trust offence, a large number of respondents came back with suggestions for how the offence could be strengthened to cover all adults who may have particular power, influence or control over a child.”

The main suggestions included sports coaches, tutors, religious leaders and youth workers. However, the law has not been amended in any part of the UK to better protect young people in this way.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently joined the growing number of people speaking out in favour of changing the law.

Also see:

Abuse of Trust

Paralympic legend backs abuse of trust law change

Former Sports Minister aims to close abuse of trust loophole

MPs call on Govt to close ‘abuse of trust’ loophole

Govt makes fresh commitment to review Abuse of Trust legislation

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