Wales

Wrexham Tennis Centre 'did not address' coach abuse claims

Daniel Sanders Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Daniel Sanders "took advantage" of a girl he coached at Wrexham Tennis Centre

Complaints about a tennis coach who later admitted child sex offences were "not properly addressed", a report has said.

Wrexham Tennis Centre's Daniel Sanders is serving a six-year prison sentence.

A parent said he wrote to officials about his concerns, adding: "I knew about this but no-one would listen."

Following an inquiry, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has brought in a new team of safeguarding experts and apologised for failings at the club.

The report said an investigation into Sanders by Wrexham Tennis Centre in 2012 was "fundamentally defective", "seriously flawed" and undertaken by "people with insufficient safeguarding experience and skill".

Three organisations - the LTA, Tennis Wales and Wrexham Tennis Centre - failed to respond to these concerns, the report added.

Sanders admitted seven counts of sexual activity with a child in July 2017, after Mold Crown Court heard he "took advantage" of a girl he coached.

The former professional once played doubles with Tim Henman and had a career-high world ranking of 858.

Investigators said they cannot know whether Dan Sanders's later crimes could have been prevented, but stated "there was sufficient evidence available from before 2016 to merit stronger action being taken against Dan Sanders".

Image copyright Andrew Price
Image caption Parents made complaints against Sanders during his time as head coach from 2012 to 2017

Richard Hughes, from Wrexham, whose daughter Kathryn played at Wrexham Tennis Centre from the age of eight, said he was "not surprised" by the coach's conviction.

He said he repeatedly raised concerns with safeguarding officers about Sanders and wrote to LTA officials.

"I knew about this but no-one would listen," he said.

The report, following an inquiry, said the club failed to recognise complaints of historic abuse by coaches and "failed to initiate proper proceedings" against Sanders before his arrest.

While his daughter, a promising player, was not sexually abused, Mr Hughes said she was bullied by Sanders.

He described him failing to string her racquets before competitions, intimidating her on court and isolating her from others at the tennis centre.

Kathryn moved to the US at the age of 17 and her father said "the aftermath of this is still with her".

"This is 2012-13 that this happened and it's dreadful that organisations with the responsibility to safeguard children seem to put their own interests ahead of the safety of the children," Mr Hughes said.

"I can't believe with all that knowledge they still failed to take action."

LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd apologised for the failings at the club and admitted "actions taken were clearly not enough".

The report said it was "confident that if Dan Sanders' 2012 case arose today, it would be handled differently and more effectively by the LTA Safeguarding Team".

John Aigne, a trustee at Wrexham Tennis Centre, said: "We recognise that our internal investigations were not sufficiently comprehensive, and later complaints were subsequently not dealt with adequately."

Tennis Wales said it "welcomed" the findings of the report.

He added the club were sorry for "missing opportunities".

Almudena Lana, from the NSPCC, said: "It is not enough to have safeguarding policies in place if they are not followed. There needs to be a culture of safeguarding across all sport so that everyone feels able to speak out and be taken seriously."  

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