Age of consent for athlete-coach relationships to rise to 18 in UK

Sexual relationships between sports coaches and 16 and 17-year-olds in their care will be made illegal, the UK sports minister Tracey Crouch has revealed.

While the age of consent in the United Kingdom is 16, current legislation extends that to 18 for certain roles and settings where there is a clear imbalance in power and the potential for exploitation is higher.

In these situations, the older person has a "position of trust" and they could be foster carers or teachers, or staff who work in hospitals or young offenders institutions.

Child protection charities, such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, have been asking government to put sports coaches in this category for some time, and their calls have gained traction in the wake of football's historic sex abuse scandal and other safeguarding issues in sport this year.

Today marks one year since the Guardian published an interview with Andy Woodward in which the former Crewe youth player described the shocking abuse he was subjected to as a boy in the 1980s.

So it was fitting that Crouch was able to inform the House of Commons on Thursday that considerable progress has been made.

Answering a question about safeguarding from Mims Davies MP, Crouch referenced Woodward's bravery and said it had made the government and the entire sports sector take this issue "incredibly seriously".

She continued: "This is why I am incredibly pleased to announce that I have secured ministerial agreement with the Ministry of Justice and Home Office to change laws on positions of trust so it includes sport coaches."

Crouch did not say how quickly this change will come into force but most national sports governing bodies are already moving in this direction in terms of what is best practice for athlete-coach relationships.

Confirmation, though, that this will now be enshrined in law is a significant step forward and has already been welcomed by campaign groups such as The Offside Trust on social media.

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