How the club responded
The club addressed this incident using their internal disciplinary processes. The assistant appeared before the club committee. He apologised and admitted that his behaviour was inappropriate. The committee took his previous good service and clean disciplinary record into consideration.
A written warning was placed on the assistant’s file for 12 months and he was removed from his position as volunteer coach.
Would you have done anything differently ?
If so, what would you have done and why?
Five months later, a second complaint was made to the club secretary against the same person, by the parent of a 17-year-old female player. The parent had noticed that their daughter received a lot of attention from the assistant. He’d offered free coaching, paid her personal compliments and sent her over 90 text messages (none of which were sexually explicit). The parent felt that his behaviour amounted to him ‘grooming’ their daughter for a relationship.
How the club responded
Once more, the club dealt with the situation ‘in house’. They interviewed the assistant, who again apologised.
The assistant resigned his club membership. He was ineligible to reapply for six months afterwards.
What would you have done ?
In this case, the parents thought the outcome was unsatisfactory. They wrote a letter of concern to the Chief Executive of the EGU (now EG).
The NGB reviewed the circumstances. The following points were raised:
- The assistant was in a position of trust. This had been overlooked by the club.
- The potential for this behaviour to constitute a criminal offence or offences was not recognised.
- The young players/witnesses involved weren’t interviewed.
- The account of the assistant was readily accepted and he wasn’t prevented from moving on to another club.
- No assessment or management of risk was undertaken.
The NGB undertook further investigation. In view of the ‘position of trust’ element, they decided to refer the matter to the police and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).
If the club had referred the first incident to the LADO, there could have been timely and appropriate intervention. But because the assistant was no longer employed by the club, the LADO was unable to take action.
Outcome and learning for all
The assistant was interviewed by the police and given a formal warning under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
This case study shows that trying to resolve the situation within the club, without seeking advice or following correct procedures, can have serious negative consequences. The implications can reach beyond the scope of the golf club, and even the sport.
The outcome in this case could have been different if a referral had been made to the authorities at the time of the first incident. In this case, owing to the time that had passed before a referral was made, the first complainant didn’t want to take further action.
- The assistant was free to move to another role, within or outside golf. There was no proper record of the complaint against him or any safeguards in place for the young people he might work with in the future.
- The rights of the assistant were potentially breached. If he had been properly advised of the potential consequences, e.g. the involvement of the police, at the time of the first incident, a second incident might not have occurred.
The staff and officials at the golf club weren’t aware of the correct procedures. Remember, incidents must be referred from the outset to the NGB.
The club should have written disciplinary policies and procedures that were available to all members.
It’s essential to keep accurate, up-to-date records.
The club had not carried out a criminal record background (CRB) check on the assistant. Statutory regulations are clear that everyone involved with young players, whether voluntary or paid employees, should only be hired subject to a clear CRB check.
The assistant had completed the PGA Level 1 licence, though it had never been signed/returned. He was not a qualified member of the PGA.