What is a position of trust in football?
Whenever you work with someone under 18, you're automatically in a position of trust. But what does that mean? Let’s find out.
Every player has the right to be safe in football and treated with dignity and respect.
Being in a position of trust means you must:
keep clear and proper boundaries with your players
be supportive, positive, and child-centred
focus on relevant football skill development.
Remember, you are responsible for how you behave with under 18s.
The FA’s position
Even though the law previously did not specify roles in sports, The FA has always applied the principles of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, that states:
“It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over to involve a child under that age in sexual activity where he or she is in a specified position of trust in relation to that child. This includes those who care for, advise, supervise or train children and young people (Sexual Offences Act 2003)”.
Previously, this law was directed at certain specified roles employed to look after children under the age of 18, for example those providing care for a child in a residential care home, hospital or educational institution.
In 2022, the government extended positions of trust in law to include adults with roles in sport making it illegal for sports coaches to engage in sexual activity (including sexualised communication via social media) with 16 and 17-year-olds. This change in law recognises that people who hold roles in football where they are coaching, teaching, training, supervising, or instructing 16 and 17-year-olds have particular influence over their development.
Even though 16 and 17-year-olds have reached the age of consent for sexual activity, they can still be vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, and abuse by those adults in positions of trust around them.
Gender and sexual orientation are irrelevant, and it makes no difference whether or not the relationship could be seen as consensual. The imbalance of power makes it an abuse of that position of trust.
These changes in the law happened because of past failings where children have been abused in football and other sports. It is now a sexual offence for anyone in such a role to have sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old.
As well as being a criminal offence, sexual activity with a young player remains a breach of The Football Association Regulations, which could result in disciplinary action and referral to police and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Five top tips for taking positive action
- Respect your position of trust. Maintain relationships with clear boundaries that reflect positively on your club or organisation.
- As someone in a position of trust, never seek or engage in sexual activity with any 16 or 17-year-old.
- If you think that a young person is seeking to develop an inappropriate relationship with you, immediately bring this to the attention of your club welfare officer or the county FA designated safeguarding officer. Be careful not to respond to the young person in any way that could be interpreted as encouraging them. Make a written record of your concerns with relevant details, sign and date it and share it without delay.
- If you suspect an individual in your football environment is abusing, or may abuse, their position of trust, report this to the club welfare officer or the county FA designated safeguarding officer. Make a written record of your concerns with relevant details, sign and date it and share it without delay.
- If you feel your concern has not been dealt with appropriately, you can refer the matter directly to The FA safeguarding case management team at Safeguarding@TheFA.com. Alternatively contact The Child Protection in Sport Unit at email@example.com, or The NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information at the following links: