Abuse in sport

Sport provides an opportunity for sex offenders to isolate and groom their victims. It is no different from any other situation, for example, education, where the young person is effectively entrusted to another for their care and well-being.

Education has simply made rapid progress in safeguarding and child protection, and it seems that the world of sport has to act fast to ensure that confidence in its institutions is not lost. What the recent sports cases reveal is that the offenders are quite brazen, and often their gossip about their behaviour which should have meant the red lights were flashing but if they were they were ignored.

The cost of child abuse in sport is immense both in human and financial terms. There is reputational damage as well as the damage suffered by the victims which sadly is often considerable and lifelong. The clubs will too often be vicariously liable for the actions of the offenders viz the abusers and will be required to pay compensation to the victims. Even if they are insured the cost still has to be met.

Some areas we cover:

 

Abuse in Wrestling

The All-party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling published, on 8th April, published its report into professional wrestling in Great Britain. The report makes interesting reading and the authors make a series of recommendations.

Wrestling has come on a long way from the days of Saturday afternoon television where audiences were entertained by stars such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. These were household names.

That was a time when terms and concepts such as “safeguarding” did not feature on the public lexicon. Child abuse and any association with wrestling or the risk of it would never have featured as a consideration. The APPG in its report have drawn to our attention, and in particular the world of wrestling, that the sport is not immune to the risk of child abuse, and that it needs to act.

You can find more information in our podcast: HJ Talks About Abuse: Alan Collins talks with British Wrestling Experience Podcast: APPG Report discussion

 

 

Abuse in Ballet

Ballet students, as with many sports, start at a young age. Those focussing on such a career may attend specialist schools and spend hours alone with coaches forming strong bonds in the hope of progressing their career.

In the summer of 2020 a ballet school in Scotland became the centre of a probe into claims of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’ by staff member, Jonathan Barton, towards students.

Victims stated how the teacher targeted the quiet vulnerable girls. One victim confirmed how Barton would message her, which slowly increased to asking her to attend his room at night. Barton and the student entered a sexual relationship when she was just sixteen.

ITV News investigated and heard from more than sixty women alleging abuse going back as far as 2004 and as recently as 2018. This resulted in the resignation of Barton.

Again abuse in sport or these types of institutions require exposure and sufficient safeguarding measures to stop predators.

You can find more information in our podcast: HJ Talks About Abuse: Abuse in Ballet

 

Abuse in Swimming

Swimming is not immune to controversy and the sport contains some dark secrets.  A case surrounding a former Olympic swimming coach trigger a report into the industry by the NSPCC.  The charity researched 78 cases of alleged abuse over a 4 year period and found there was a significant minority of children and young people suffering sexual, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of those in respected and powerful positions within the sport’.

USA Swimming was engulfed in scandal in 2010 when a television news investigation revealed myriad cases of sexual misconduct of various forms by coaches.

Cases uncovered included Andy King, a coach who was sentenced to 40 years in prison after authorities discovered a pattern of sexual abuse that stretched over three decades at clubs up and down the West Coast and involved more than a dozen teenaged female victims - one of whom said she had an abortion after he got her pregnant when she was 14.

Another case involved a coach who installed a secret camera to film young women swimmers showering.

While more than 100 coaches were eventually banned for life from working for USA Swimming-affiliated clubs, the federation was blasted for an inadequate response to complaints that in some cases allowed coaches to evade their accusers and authorities, moving to new cities and gaining coaching jobs at new clubs where they continued predatory behaviour.

King, who was sentenced in 2010, had passed a USA Swimming background screening in 2008es the large numbers of victim s and potential victims.

 

How can we help

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse as a result of your involvement in professional sport, you may want justice, compensation, or simply an apology. You may also want further advice and support.

Whether the sexual abuse suffered was by an individual or sports organisation, you deserve justice. Justice, for many people, this includes the compensation you may be entitled to. While compensation can't undo the experience of suffering abuse, it can help you start to move on with your life.

Whichever course of action you choose, our lawyers have many years’ experience of working with survivors of abuse, and will always have your best interests at heart. You’ll find us sensitive to your needs, expert at listening, and thoughtful and considered when explaining the options open to you.

Our team of specialist solicitors have helped many people secure sexual abuse compensation. One of our team can offer you a free consultation to give you advice on making a claim. We can meet you at home, in our office, or any location you choose – or we can talk on the phone if you prefer.

Please don't feel worried or embarrassed discussing your claim with one of us. We'll deal with your case with great care and attention, and completely confidentially, to help you achieve the justice you deserve.

Key contact

Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

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The Football Association Independent Review of Child Sexual Abuse

 

The Football Association Independent Review Inquiry was commissioned by the Football Association in December 2016 to investigate a number of football clubs following  disclosure of sexual abuse over the years by survivors.

The report was very critical of those who did not alert police to abuse suffered by young footballers. This had already been highlighted by the Geekie report which criticised Dario Gradi, the assistant coach for Chelsea FC and later Crewe Alexandra FC, for not referring complaints regarding Eddie Health’s behaviour.

The report found:

  • The FA were slow to respond following high profile disclosures of abuse in 1995 and could have done more, specifically during this period but took another five years to implement any change. The report described this as “institutional failings” in delaying the implementation of child safeguarding measures.
  • In around 1975, Chelsea FC should have taken steps followings disclosure of abuse by Eddie Heath’s sexual advances and misconduct in or around 1975.
  • In 1989, Aston Villa FC should have reported disclosures about sexual abuse by scout Ted Langford to the police
  • In the early 1980’s Manchester City FC senior management were aware of rumours and concerns about Barry Bennell. The Club did not investigate these rumours. The Club should also have investigated the arrangements for boys staying at Bennell’s house. It was also found likely that three Directors of Crewe Alexandra FC discussed concerns about Bennell which hinted at his sexual interest in children. There is no evidence that the advice to the club from a senior police officer to keep a “watching brief” on Bennell was heeded. The report found the Club should also have ensured that there were safeguarding in place for boys staying overnight at Bennell’s house. The report found the boys should have been spoken to and therefore may have made disclosures to the Club.
  • In 1990, Stoke City FC were also aware of rumours about Bennell during his time associated with the Club and steps should have been taken to monitor him.
  • In 1997, Newcastle FC should have acted more quickly following disclosures of abuse by George Ormond at the Youth Club. Ormond was removed from the Club many months later, however prior to this he was still permitted to travel abroad with young players with no additional safeguarding.
  • Peterborough FC and Southampton FC were aware of rumours about or inappropriate behaviour of Bob Higgins. The clubs were also aware boys were staying at his home. The report found Higgins should have been monitored by the club more and the FA again was criticised for the failure to look at the allegations at the clubs.

Read more about the report here: https://www.hughjames.com/blog/the-football-association-independent-review-of-child-sexual-abuse

Your questions answered

What counts as sexual abuse?

 

Sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted touching, as well as name calling or internet contact, or using sex as a way of causing pain or humiliation. It can be a one-off occurrence or carry on over a period of time. It might have happened earlier in your life or still be happening now. If you have suffered sexual abuse, or you suspect someone else is being sexually abused, you should report it to the police, even if it was a long time ago.

Who can I make a claim against?

 

You can make a claim for sexual abuse compensation against an abuser, but also any organisation, institution or individual that failed in their duty of care to protect you from harm.

How do I make a claim for sexual abuse?

 

We'll help you gather the evidence you need to make a claim. To help, you should try to preserve all the evidence as best you can. Photograph injuries, print off internet logs, keep soiled clothing safe in a freezer bag, and keep details of all doctor's or hospital visits. Get the names and addresses of people who could be witnesses, including people you told about the abuse.

Will I have to go to court?

 

In most cases, you won’t. If a case had to go to court, we’d meet you in person to get your instructions, and do so in a place where you feel comfortable. You’d also have the chance to reconsider. If you wanted, we could arrange for you to give evidence by video.

Are the conversations we have private?

 

Absolutely. You have a right to confidentiality, so no one else will know what we discuss unless you tell them.

How much will it cost?

 

We can represent you on a no win, no fee basis, so there’s no worry about having to pay. We’ll explain in detail how it works.

We’ll do only what you ask us to do – you’re always in control and can stop the process at any point.

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