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Abusive and bullying behaviour of football coaches leads to compensation

Leigh Day has secured damages for a young man who was bullied and assaulted at college

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3 August 2009

Frances Swaine and Merry Varney have secured compensation for a young man who was bullied and assaulted by his football coaches whilst attending a sixth form college in North London where he was studying under the PASE scheme, a system set up to allow promising young footballers to continue with their academic careers whilst training.

The college has now paid £40,000 to our client, who only told his father about the treatment he was receiving at the hands of two football coaches after enduring 18 months of bullying. He was reluctant to speak out due to shame, embarrassment and fear, and he knew that speaking out was likely to jeopardise his future football career.

Abusive behaviour

Our client was regularly assaulted by his football coaches, including being punched, slapped, pushed against walls and having his throat squeezed. The coaches regularly bullied and intimidated him with some sexually predatory behaviour, verbally abusing him, screaming offensive names at him, confining him in a metal cupboard and watching whilst he was in the shower and changing room. The coaches also regularly employed wholly inappropriate practices such as dividing the students into white and non-white players.

Our client finally broke down and told his father about the abuse he had been suffering. His father immediately complained to the college which launched an investigation and suspended the coaches, both of whom had previously been fined by the Football Association (FA) for aggressive behaviour. After two weeks, the college decided it was taking no further action and allowed the coaches to return to the college. Our client was further distressed by the college's failure to properly investigate and their decision to allow the coaches to return to work, which led to our client dropping out totally from his college course.

He and his family then complained to the Football Association. The FA immediately suspended the coaches and ordered a disciplinary hearing, at which our client had to give evidence in person about the abuse he had suffered. After a lengthy delay the FA finally found many of our client’s claims were proven, including findings of “sexual misconduct” and "assault". The FA subsequently banned both coaches from working with children until 2010, and has ruled that they must be supervised and sent on training courses once they return to coaching.

Claim against college

Our client issued proceedings against the sixth form college alleging that it had failed in its duty of care towards him, including failing to undertake an adequate investigation into our client's complaint. The college sought to defend the claim on the basis that the coaches had simply been engaging in "horseplay"; however recently the college has agreed to settle the claim for £40,000. As well as financial compensation, our client and his family have ensured that the college now has anti-bullying and child protection policies in place (which did not exist at the time our client suffered abuse) and they are currently working with the FA to develop effective policies to be implemented nationwide to protect child players and ensure there are adequate frameworks for young players to report abusive and threatening behaviour by coaches.

Both we and our client are very pleased with the result we have achieved and after agreeing the £40,000 settlement, our client stated:

"When I first arrived at Leigh Day, I was greeted by warm smiles and sincere people. Throughout my case I was always informed of any news and was never left with any worries or concerns. Choosing Leigh Day to handle my case was the greatest choice I have made and the people involved in my case really helped with the closure I so desperately wanted. Thank you!"

For more information please contact Frances Swaine or Merry Varney on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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Human rights and civil liberties

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Abuse