A year to the day since sport’s paedophile scandal erupted, the sports minister has announced an agreement has been struck to outlaw coaches having sex with 16 and 17-year-olds under their care.
Tracey Crouch told parliament the Ministry of Justice had finally agreed to bring the industry into line with the education sector, in which it is illegal for teachers to sleep with pupils under the age of 18.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph last month, Crouch said changing the law had been her “number-one priority” but admitted the upcoming legislative timetable was “incredibly tight” amid Brexit.
The NSPCC in January called for the closure of a “loophole” allowing coaches to have relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds under their care.
That came on the back of football’s worst ever scandal, which erupted two months earlier when Andy Woodward revealed he had been the victim of child sexual abuse, prompting an avalanche of similar revelations from other players.
Speaking at the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport parliamentary questions session, Crouch said: “A year ago, Andy Woodward reported historic allegations of sexual abuse in football. It was very brave of him to do so.
“I’m pleased to announce that I have secured ministerial agreement to change the law on positions of trust to include sports coaches.”
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Crouch’s announcement came a month after British sport’s most senior child protection officer condemned what she branded “a lack of will” to change the law.
Anne Tiivas, the head of the Child Protection in Sport Unit – a partnership between the NSPCC, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales – told a Westminster Media Forum on integrity and duty of care in sport: “If you are a teacher today and you have a sexual relationship with an otherwise consenting 16 or 17-year-old, it’s a criminal offence and you will get barred from teaching.
“If you’re a coach with that same child in the evening, that is not a criminal offence.
“We must plug that loophole; it’s completely incongruous. And it’s very difficult to understand the lack of will to tackle that.”