The British Rowing safeguarding team have issued the following important update to Club Welfare Officers – it is also relevant for all club coaches and those who manage them.
Dear Club Welfare Officers,
This is an important update from British Rowing’s safeguarding team to advise you of an important change in the law coming in on Tuesday 28th June 2022 which will support sports to make sport safer for children and will affect the position of coaches under criminal law.
It also updates you on the Whyte Report and explains how British Rowing is responding to the Report and its recommendations. Changes to the Law relating to Coaches What is happening? All coaches are now in a position of trust under the criminal law and therefore come within the ambit of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
What does that mean? Prior to the law changes, sections 16 to 19 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 made it illegal for an adult in a Position of Trust to engage in sexual conduct with a 16 or 17-year-old. This was intended to safeguard 16 and 17-year-olds who are over the age of sexual consent but are considered vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in situations when an adult is in a position of trust. It included people like doctors and teachers but did not include coaches.
The new section 22A to the Sexual Offences Act will extend the definition of “position of trust” to include any adult that regularly coaches, teaches, trains, supervises, or instructs a 16 or 17-year-old in a sport.
How does that change things? It brings any coach within the definition of position of trust and therefore subject to the sanction of the criminal law.
In practice, British Rowing considers it to be against our safeguarding policies and code of conduct for a person in a position of authority or influence to form an inappropriate relationship with a 16- or 17-year-old and where such a relationship existed it would have incurred a sanction.
Why has the law changed? Adults who regularly coach, teach, train, supervise, or instruct a child in a sport or religion have a significant influence on the development of that child. They have a lot of trust, influence, responsibility, and these people can be well-known, trusted, and respected in the sporting community. As a result, even if the young person does not perceive the relationship to be abusive or exploitative, there is a major power imbalance between the adult and the child, which can amount to a misuse of the adult’s position of trust and leaves the young person vulnerable to manipulation and grooming.
What should you do now Please communicate this information immediately to your coaches and your Committee and also to your club members.
Please also, let your coaches know that UK coaching have a free webinar that gives further details of the changes and how they will impact on sports coaches. They can sign up using this link here.
You can find further updates and guidance on the legislation changes here and the CPSU have guidance on the position of trust in sports which you can find here.
If you have a concern about a person in a position of trust please report the matter to the police immediately and allow them to investigate. Whyte Review and Report You may have read in the press about the Whyte Report, which is the outcome of an investigation into complaints about mistreatment in gymnastics. British Rowing is carefully considering the recommendations of the report and consequent changes to its policies and to the way we do things. We don’t want to rush into anything and the report is long and detailed so it will take a while to digest and work out our action plan. We will keep you updated so watch this space.
If you want to read the full report or at least the Executive summary and recommendations you can find it here.