Over the last couple of months we have seen a steady increase in the number of enquiries we are receiving from the victims of abuse in a sporting environment.
In November The Guardian produced an in depth article about the activities of the Lawn Tennis Association and the head coach at Wrexham Tennis Centre Daniel Sanders.
We are already acting for victims of this scandal and believe that there may be many more children who have suffered abuse at the hands of tennis coaches.
This week Louis Murray pleaded guilty to 8 charges including engaging in sexual activity with a child. He was a trampoline coach.
The writer already has various clients who are pursuing claims from other sporting arenas. We have children who were the victims of abuse by a swimming coach. We are acting for various footballers who suffered abuse at different clubs. In some cases the abuse was so serious that a promising professional career was ruined.
Unfortunately the relationship between a coach and a young athlete has all the characteristics that we see in other abuse scenarios. As with a clergyman, scout leader or school teacher a sports coach is someone that a young athlete looks up to and respects. He or she is a person of power who can significantly affect the victim’s future. We have particularly found with the victims of football abuse that they were too scared to come forward because they knew that making allegations against a well respected coach would jeopardise their future in the profession. The same would undoubtedly be true of swimmers, tennis players and trampolinists. They all aim to succeed in their sport which could be jeopardised if they reveal to anybody the abuse they were suffering.
Another similar characteristic is the trust that we place in sports coaches. When we leave our children at the scout group or at Sunday school we trust the scout leader and clergymen to care for them as we would. People who take their children to organised sport clubs place similar trust in the sports coach. There are respected members of society who you would not normally expect to engage in this type of behaviour.
The cases we are dealing with have tended to involve coaches who are arrogant and self confident who bully their victims. They are often ex sportsmen who have succeeded to a degree and who have gained respect as a result. They then abuse that trust and respect by harming the children in their care. The opportunity for them to do this is readily available. They will often coach many children in many different age bands. The children will sometimes go on trips to competitions with them. They will be in close proximity to the children when they are getting changed and they will have close contact with the children when they are wearing sport clothing or swimming costumes.
The potential for abuse is clear.
As a department specialising in this area of work we have certainly seen a significant increase over the last 12 months not only in relation to the well publicised football cases but also in relation to abuse in other areas. The vast majority of sports coaches are honourable and reputable people often giving up their time and energy at no cost and instilling in many children a love of sport which will last a lifetime. Unfortunately within this group there is a small element who will exploit the opportunity to abuse the children entrusted to their care.
To speak with a solicitor who is experienced in abuse claims in the strictest confidence please call 0330 134 6430 or email us.