Legal Requirements for Sports Coaching

As a sports coach are there any legal requirements which I must adhere to?

Often people who involve themselves in sport as coaches are directly involved with young children and vulnerable individuals. Accordingly they must be subject to appropriate checks as to their suitability to work in this environment such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and Vetting and Barring schemes required by the individual sport.

In order to be a coach for a particular sport within the UK it is likely that you will be required to achieve certain qualifications. For example if you wish to coach tennis within England you will be required at attain the required level of coaching certificate of qualification from the National Governing Body of Tennis in England.  

Therefore, there will be certain requirements and laws from the particular sport which you wish to become a coach in regarding the behaviour and standards of coaching.

Are there any general laws which I should be aware of?

Code of Ethics and Conduct for Sports Coaches

The Code of Ethics and Conduct for Sports Coaches has been developed by the National Foundation for the Code of Ethics which was published by the British Institute of Sports Coaches (BISC). Furthermore it also follows European Union direction as it adopts the principles contained within the Council of Europe’s Code of Sports Ethics.

The British Institute of Sports Coaches (BISC) Code formed the value statement which underpins the National Vocational Qualification Standards for Coaching, Teaching and Instructing.

Does the code form part of any legislation?

The code is simply a framework within with to work and is to be used as a series of guidelines rather than as a set of instructions. Consequently it is not part of any existing legislation. All coaches in the UK should, however, be aware of it as a course of good practice.

What does the Code say?

The code details various areas and issues with which all sports coaches are expected to conform to. These ethical standards cover a number of areas including the following:

  • Humanity
  • Relationships
  • Commitment
  • Cooperation
  • Integrity
  • Advertising
  • Confidentiality
  • Abuse of privilege
  • Safety
  • Competence


  • Coaches must respect the rights, dignity and worth of every human and their ultimate right to self-determination.
  • Coaches must treat everyone equally and with sensitivity within the context of their ability and the activity which they undertake. Particularly this must be done regardless of gender, ethnic origin, cultural background, sexual orientation, religion of political affliction.


  • Coaches must be concerned primarily with the well-being safety, protection and future of the individual.
  • One of the key elements in a relationship between coach and individual is for the coach to develop the notion of independence with the individual athlete or performer. The individual must be encouraged to accept responsibility for their own behaviour and performance in both training and competition.
  • As the relationship between coach and individual is a working relationship, the boundaries of this must be monitored by the coach especially when the individual is a young person.
  • In certain sports and activities physical contact by a coach is necessary. If this is the case then the coach must ensure that no action on their part could be misconstrued and that any requisite National Governing Body (NGB) guidelines are followed.
  • As the relationship between coach and individual performer of athlete relies heavily on mutual trust and respect the coach should make the performer immediately aware of the coach’s qualifications and experience and must be given the opportunity to consent to or decline proposals for training, performance or competition.


  • Coaches should clarify in advance with individuals the number of sessions, fees and method of payments.  They should also explore with individuals their expectations from the coaching sessions.
  • If the coach has any other coaching commitments these should be disclosed to the individual and vice versa.
  • If at any stage there becomes a conflict between the coach’s obligations to an individual and to the National Governing Body which they adhere to they should immediately make clear this conflict to all parties involved.


  • Coaches must communicate and cooperate with other sports and allied professions in the best interests of the individual under their coaching. For example they should communicate with the education authorities and career counselors in relation to young performers whose involvement in sport may affect their studies. Coaches should also seek sports science advice through the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).


  • Coaches must not encourage individuals to violate the rules of their sport. Similarly coaches must not compromise their performers by advocating measures that could constitute unfair advantage.
  • Coaches must ensure that the activities, training and completion programs they put in place are direct or appropriate for the age, maturity, experience and ability of the individual performer or athlete.
  • At no point should a coach advocate or encourage the use of prohibited drugs or any other performance enhancing substance.


  • Advertising by sports coaches specifically means that they must accurately represent their qualifications, training and services when advertising for new clients. Evidence must be able to be presented in relation to their current qualifications and to support any claim associated with the promotion of their services.


  • It is an inevitable factor due to the relationship between coach and individual performer or athlete that the coach must gather a large amount of personal information about the individual performer or athlete. Consequently it us up to the coach and the individual to decide on what information is to be regarded as confidential and therefore unable to be transferred to a third party without their consent.

If a person has a right to know about the information then the fact that it is confidential does not stop it being disclosed. This occurs in the following situations:

  • Where it needs to be evaluated for competitive selection purposes
  • Where it is needed for a recommendation for employment
  • Where it is required in relation to disciplinary action involving performers within the sport
  • Where it is required in relation to disciplinary action by a sports organisation against one of its members
  • Where it is required to make recommendations to family or parents whereby the health or safety of the individual may be at stake.
  • Where it is required in pursuit of action to protect children from abuse

Abuse of Privilege

  • As a sports coach is seen to be privileged to be in regular contact with performers and occasionally to travel and reside with individual performers or athletes in the course of their coaching or competitive practice a coach must not attempt to exert undue influence in order to obtain personal benefit or reward.
  • Coaches must not smoke or drink while coaching. They must not do anything which may affect their competence to coach and which would compromise the safety of the individual performer or athlete.


  • Coaches must ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure a safe working environment. This means that the work done should be kept in practice with the standards required by the National Governing Body. For example in sports such as gymnastics the National Governing Body will require that all coaches adhere to certain safety standards when an individual is undertaking a particular aspect of the sport.
  • Coaches also have a duty to protect children from harm and abuse.


  • Coaches shall only practice in those elements of sport for which their training and competence is recognised by the appropriate National Governing Body.
  • The National Occupational Standards for Coaching, Teaching and Instructing along with the approved National Governing Body coaching awards provide the framework for establishing competence at the different levels of coaching practice.