Child sexual abuse in sport and leisure settings: an analysis of reports to English local authorities

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk



    Patterns of reporting of child maltreatment are important for understanding what a community or society considers to be ‘abuse’ and an appreciation of this can also inform prevention efforts. Furthermore, extracting data from case files can assist in building a more detailed picture of sexual abuse and exploitation within a particular setting(s).

    In the UK, each local authority is required to appoint a child protection lead, otherwise known as a LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer). These officers are a key element of the UK child protection/safeguarding infrastructure and are often the first point of contact for public and voluntary sector organisations when a report or allegation of child abuse is made. Local authorities have a statutory duty to document all reports of child maltreatment they receive and the British government now requires local authorities to collate and submit this data annually. However, this process does not disaggregate data relating to allegations of abuse in sport or leisure. Therefore, local authorities in the UK potentially have access to important data relating to child sexual exploitation and abuse in sport/leisure contexts but do not have systems in place to separate, collate or extract this data.


    With the assistance of a LADO, a Freedom of Information Act request was constructed and submitted to all English local authorities in the summer/autumn of 2015. This requested data on all reports/allegations recorded by the local authority (n=215) for the period 2010-2015, relating to child maltreatment in a sports or leisure setting. It also asked them to extract data from the reports according to a range of variables: sport-type, gender, age, role, reporter and outcome. This paper presents findings related to reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse in sport and leisure settings, as recorded by local authorities.


    At time of writing data is still being received and input. However, to date, a response rate of 36% has generated 491 discrete reports relating to concerns about child sexual abuse in sport/leisure settings. Preliminary results show that this constitutes 50% of all reports received (n=986) in relation to concerns about children in sport/leisure for the period 2010-15 (physical abuse 19%; emotional abuse 3.6%). 41% of reports of sexual abuse relate to female children; 13% relate to male children; 7% to male and female; 39% were unknown.


    In this paper I present and interpret the findings of this survey and consider the value of this (and other quantitative) data as well as the recording systems employed by UK authorities. I also draw upon recent criminological work on the ‘situational’ prevention of child sexual abuse and consider how these developments may inform quantitative data collection and prevention of sexual violence in sport.
    Period7 Jul 2017
    Event title22nd Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science: Sport Science in a Metropolitan Area
    Event typeConference
    LocationGermanyShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • child protection
    • safeguarding
    • sport
    • reporting