ANDOVER Athletic Club has offered reassurances that safe-guarding procedures have “improved significantly” since the period when Philip Banning was at the club.

Mr Banning was this week jailed for seven-and-a-half years after he “manipulated, abused and violated” schoolgirls in Andover during the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Banning coached at Andover Athletic Club during that period, and it was there that he met the four girls that he was this week found guilty of indecently assaulting.

But the club committee says that all its coaches “are DBS checked according to UKA regulations” and adds that “all new and updated DBS applications will also require an online module of child welfare to have been completed.”

The athletics club has also applauded the courage of Mr Banning’s victims in coming forward to report the abuse, whilst offering its deepest sympathy.

The full statement from the athletics club read: “Following the conviction of Mr Philip Banning, on Monday, August 12, at Winchester Crown Court, Andover Athletic Club wishes to offer our deepest sympathy to the four victims in this case.

“Since the club was notified and made aware of the allegations against Philip Banning, we have assisted the police in their enquiries.

“Andover Athletic Club is a small but flourishing club and we are currently nurturing our talented athletes through local, national and international competitions. We are entirely run and coached by volunteers.

“The committee would like to reassure members, athletes, parents/guardians and the wider public that welfare and safe-guarding procedures are at the club and also throughout all sporting clubs as a whole and have improved significantly since the time period in which these appalling acts occurred.

“All our qualified coaches, along with the welfare officer are DBS checked according to UKA regulations. All new and updated DBS applications will also require an online module of child welfare to have been completed.

“We applaud the courage of those who have come forward to report the abuse and are relieved that they were spared from the court process by his guilty plea. We have great respect for these victims and their families as they continue to cope with the distressing effects of the abuse they suffered.

“We would encourage all victims of any sexual abuse to seek assistance. The Police can be contacted on 101.”

Andover Athletic Club was formed in the 1950s and today its clubhouse is located at the Charlton Sports and Leisure Centre, in Andover.

The club has both junior and senior members who compete in track and field and cross country events.