Coach v National Sporting Organisation

A dispute between a Coach and a National Sporting Organisation regarding alleged breaches of the Sport’s Child Safeguarding Policy.

Matter number:
Date of decision:
Dispute type:
Disciplinary dispute
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Coach v National Sporting Organisation is a disputed decision of the Sporting Organisation to sanction the Coach, after a Sport Integrity Australia investigation found that the Coach had twice contravened the Sport’s Child Safeguarding Policy (Policy).

A complaint was submitted by a 17-year-old athlete against the Coach after an event, at which the Athlete alleged they were touched by the Coach without consent, and that the Coach blew a kiss towards the Athlete.

The Coach challenged the findings. The application was dismissed. 

The Determination has not been published. Following is an extract relating to consideration of the scope of the policy and whether the Coach needed to be aware of the complainant’s age in order for the policy to apply.


The Policy applies in respect of the conduct of a ‘Relevant Person’ towards a ‘Child’. It was not disputed that the Coach was a ‘Relevant Person’. 

The Policy defines a ‘child’ as ‘a child or young person who is under the age of 18 years’. 

It was not disputed that, on 15 January 2023, the Athlete was 17 years old i.e. less than 18 years old and legally a minor. 

The Coach raised the argument that it was necessary for the Sporting Body to prove that the Coach knew the Athlete was a ‘child’. 

I do not accept this argument. The application of the Policy depends on whether an athlete is in fact a minor or not. The application of the Policy does not depend on the subjective belief of the Authorised Person against whom a complaint is made about the age of an athlete (whether that subjective belief is reasonable or not). This definition means that the Policy is applicable to all dealings with a person under the age of 18 years, not just persons who might generally be regarded as ‘children’, or even persons who might regard themselves as ‘children’. 

This interpretation of the Policy gives a broad operation to it. An alternative interpretation would significantly limit the practical utility of the Policy. 

The subjective beliefs of a Relevant Person are relevant to the penalty that might be imposed but not to the application of the Policy. 

I am also not persuaded that the Coach thought that the Athlete was an adult. The day after the incident the Coach asked the Athlete which school they went to. The Coach tended that some elite athletes complete their final years of schooling over more than one year, so a person can still be at school and be more than 18 years old. Those exceptions do not alter the usual rule. I consider that the Coach believed that the Athlete was less than 18 years old, or alternatively, was not concerned about the Athlete’s age. The Coach might be described as reckless in considering whether the Athlete was a minor or not. The Athlete was in fact a minor, albeit a 17-year-old minor.