Meet the three women who fought to make it illegal for sports coaches to sleep with young athletes

For Baroness Grey-Thompson, her motivation for campaigning for a change in the law was clear after hearing the testimonies of those who had been groomed by her athletic trainers. “I’ve heard from parents that on their daughter’s 16th birthday, a coach showed up on their doorstep and said, ‘Can I date your daughter?'” she says. “Someone who’s a lot older and has been training their kid for a number of years and I don’t think it’s right.”

She was told those shocking details when she was asked in 2017, at the direction of then-Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch, to deliver a due diligence review in sport. At the time, survivors of the abuse of football coach and serial pedophile Barry Bennell had just given up their anonymity and begun to speak out. It was the impetus for Crouch’s own work on protection.

Meanwhile, Labor MP Sarah Champion joined the pair after prioritizing the issue in her Rotherham constituency, where a child abuse scandal has rocked the community for the past decade.

Together, the trio identified filling a loophole in the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 as their priority, as it had allowed athletic coaches to engage in sexual relationships with 16- and 17-year-olds in their care for decades. It has taken almost five years of tireless campaigning, but on Tuesday they finally got the result they had been fighting for.

The Justice Department announced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which will put coaches and faith leaders on an equal footing with teachers, social workers and doctors in terms of trust positions — finally having sex with under-18s in their care illegally.

“It’s huge, it’s about resetting and redefining the sport and the responsibility of the sport to the participants,” said Paralympic champion and crossbench winner Peer Grey-Thompson telegraph sports. “The coach is in a position of power, of trust and… [young people] be forced into relationships. That’s one of the reasons my due diligence report recommended a sport ombudsman, because I don’t think governing bodies are in place to deal with some of these issues. It’s a really important step forward.” Meet the three women who fought to make it illegal for sports coaches to sleep with young athletes

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