Child Abuse in Sports Clubs and Leisure Centres

Child Abuse in Sports Clubs and Leisure Activities

As parents, we do our best by our children, ensuring they have the opportunity to explore all the riches life has to offer in terms of sport, culture and leisure.

This means taking a leap of faith and entrusting other adults and organisations, not only to teach your child new skills but to keep them safe from harm.

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A legal loophole may facilitate the abuse of children in sports clubs or leisure activities

The NSPCC has highlighted the fact that the role of sports coaches and other youth workers fell outside the legal definition of "position of trust". 

The charity's chief executive, Peter Wanless, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that the loophole was "remarkable... given the significant amount of responsibility, influence and authority that an individual in [the role of sports coach] can hold in a young person's life". 

The NSPCC has urged the government to improve the rules around background checks, which could inform clubs whether a coach (or potential) coach or volunteer had a criminal record or was banned from working with children. 

In 2012, then-Home Secretary Theresa May relaxed the rules surrounding background checks. This resulted in employees or volunteers, working unsupervised with under-18s on a regular basis, necessitating a full check. Therefore people working in a support or assistant role could avoid background checks.  

If you would like further information on making a compensation claim for child abuse occurring at a sports or leisure club, please call our office on 0333 123 9099or email

What is sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching activity. Some examples of touching activity include: touching a child's genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure making a child touch someone else's genitals, play sexual games or have sex putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, in the mouth or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure

Some examples of non-touching activity include:

  • showing pornography to a child
  • deliberately exposing an adult's genitals to a child
  • photographing a child in sexual poses
  • encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom

The signs of child abuse?

The idea of someone hurting your child is every parent’s worst nightmare.  Most parents try to instil into their children from a young age that they can come to them with any problems.  But as they grow and establish their own, independent life, children become more reluctant to confess things to their parents.  Especially if a person committing abuse has threatened them or their loved ones if they ever share “their little secret”.

However, there are signs to look out for that may indicate your child is or has been the victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.  These include:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
  • Becoming unusually secretive
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure
  • Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • Outburst of anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
  • Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
  • Running away
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular person

What should I do if I have discovered my child has been abused?

 How you react will be critical in the way your child handles the impact of what has happened to them.  As a parent, it is recommended that your first priorities if your child tells you they have been the victim of inappropriate behaviour at a sports or leisure club are to:

  1. Believe them
  2. Reassure them that everything will be OK and you will protect them
  3. Re-establish their safety
  4. Let them know that they are in no way to blame for what has happened to them

Once your child is physically and emotionally safe, contact the police and sports or leisure club to report the allegations.  It is also crucial that you, as a parent, get support for yourself.  You and your child will experience feelings of fury, guilt and shame along with many other emotions.  It is critical that you receive professional support as a family unit to help you deal with the impact the revelation of abuse will have on you all.

Can I claim compensation if I suffered historic abuse at my sports or leisure club?

If you were the victim of abuse whilst participating in a sport or leisure activity run by a club, (or your child has been the victim of abuse) you may be able to claim for compensation if you can prove that those responsible for the running of the organisation were negligent in exposing you to a situation in which abuse could occur. Alternatively, you can claim from the abuser personally.

How do I make a claim?

Making a claim for child abuse which has occurred at a sport or leisure club will require you to contact a solicitor who is an expert in managing child abuse cases.  At IBB Claims we have a team of highly-trained, sensitive solicitors who can guide you through the claims process and ensure those who failed in their duty to protect you from harm, compensate you for the damage they caused.

What is the process of making a claim?

Our personal injury team will arrange an initial consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case. You will not be asked any specific details of the abuse at this stage.

We will then recommend that you (if you are the victim) or the parents of the child who has suffered abuse, report allegations of the abuse to the police if this has not been done already; this is an important aspect of the compensation claim.

We will then support you in getting medical reports detailing effects of abuse.  We will them make the claim and take appropriate steps to persuade those responsible to accept blame and to enter into settlement negotiations.

How long with the process take?

Claims for historic abuse can take many years, especially if there are many victims and an ongoing criminal case.  Claims can take up to 36 months to complete; however, you can count on our support and dedication, no matter how long the process takes.

Will I have to go to court?

Not necessarily.  Our vast experience and skill in alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation means that most of the claims we bring are settled long before they reach the courtroom.  This is important to us as we know how upsetting and stressful it can be for victims of child sexual or physical abuse to appear in court.

If a settlement cannot be reached, we will ensure you have expert counsel representing you and 24/7 support from our team throughout the trial process.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

At IBB Claims we provide ‘conditional fee arrangements’, otherwise known as ‘no win, no fee’.  This means that if your claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay any legal fees to our solicitors.

Because we are shouldering the risk of your claim, you can therefore feel confident that we believe it has a strong chance of success.

You can further protect yourself by taking out After the Event insurance to cover the other side’s costs if the court orders that you must pay them.

We will fully explain all your options to you when you come in to see us.

By instructing IBB Claims to manage your compensation claim for abuse occurring whilst you participated in sports or leisure activities as a child, you can be confident that you have the best possible chance of success.  We will expertly guide you through the process, providing you and your family with support as and when you require it.

If early settlement is not possible, you can be assured that we will robustly fight your claim in court, protecting your interests and obtaining the compensation you deserve.

If you would like further information on making a compensation claim for child abuse occurring at a sports or leisure club, please call our office on 0333 123 9099or email

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