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

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For Baroness Grey-Thompson, her motivation to campaign for a change in law was clear after hearing the testimony of those who had been groomed by their sports coaches. “I’ve had parents tell me a coach turned up on their doorstep on their daughter’s 16th birthday and said, ‘Can I date your daughter?’” she says. “Someone who is much older and coached their child for a number of years, and I don’t think it’s right.”

These shocking details were relayed to her when she was asked to deliver a Duty of Care in Sport review in 2017, under the instruction of then-sports minister Tracey Crouch. At the time, survivors of football coach and serial paedophile Barry Bennell’s abuse had just waived their anonymity and begun speaking out. It is what drove Crouch’s own work on safeguarding.

Meanwhile Labour MP Sarah Champion joined forces with the pair, after prioritising the issue in her constituency of Rotherham, where a child abuse scandal rocked the community in the last decade.

Together, the trio identified overturning a loophole in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as their priority, as it had allowed sports coaches to get away with forming sexual relationships with 16 and 17 year-olds in their care for decades. It took almost five years of tireless campaigning, but they finally got the result they had been fighting for on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Justice announced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will put coaches and faith leaders on par with teachers, social workers and doctors when it comes to positions of trust law – finally making sex with under-18s in their care illegal.

“It’s huge, it’s about resetting and reframing sport and the responsibility of sport to participants,” Paralympic champion and crossbench peer Grey-Thompson told Telegraph Sport. “The coach is in a position of power, of trust, and [young people] are being coerced into relationships. That’s one of the reasons why my Duty of Care report recommended a sport ombudsman, because I don’t think governing bodies are set up to deal with some of these issues. This is a really important step forward.”

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