Sports coaches must draw up code of contact

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The Independent Online
SPORTS COACHES should be allowed to give teenagers a celebratory hug during a game or rub an injury but should avoid more explicit sexual contact, says a government report.

Churches, sporting organisations, scout groups and schools are among organisations told to draw up a code of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation of vulnerable young people. The initiative, announced yesterday, follows concern about teenagers being sexually abused by people in trust, such as swimming coaches, teachers and scout masters.

Under the plans unveiled by the Home Office and a range of government departments, and backed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, all organisations that have contact with 16 and 17- year-olds should have guidelines on suitable behaviour. The guide is aimed at preventing sexual activity in relationships of trust. The report, Caring for young people and the vulnerable?, says organisations should draw up "a clear supporting explanation of what behaviour is or is not acceptable within the particular organisation".

It continues: "This is particularly important in areas such as sports coaching which may involve non-sexual physical contact or in care situations where intimate services may need to be performed for another person.

"This will need to be worked out in detail for each organisation but unacceptable activity would include sexual intercourse, masturbation and oral sex or other sexual activity.

"Some behaviour, such as cuddling another person when they are hurt or distressed or spontaneous activity such as celebratory embraces, for example on the sports field, would not normally be construed as sexual."

Confusion by some coaches was expressed at a meeting involving managers of girl soccer teams who said they were unsure whether it was acceptable for them to check their players were wearing sports bras, an important safety measure, and what they should do if a teenager was injured.

Lord Bassam of Brighton, a Home Office minister, said: "What we are talking about here is not sexual abuse currently covered by the criminal law, but something more insidious and not always recognised as abuse."

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