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High-level Panel Session Hosted by the European Parliament Intergroup on Sport, anti-sports trafficking organization Mission 89, and the Amersi Foundation

Participants Include FIFA, the Premier League, ex-professional footballers, IAAF, Interpol, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Labor Organization, Council of Europe

Tuesday 16th October 2018, 18h30 – 20h30

Room JAN 6Q1 European Parliament, Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Brussels

Every year, hundreds of thousands of children are smuggled across borders and sold as commodities, including promising young athletes who are trafficked by sham agents promising fame, riches, and an escape route from a cycle of poverty.

With only broad estimates of how many youth, particularly of African and South American origin, leaving their country of birth to pursue an often-false rainbow, it is difficult to determine the true extent of the problem. Civil Society and Political Institutions are showing increasing concern on this issue and have subsequently passed policy resolutions and recommendations that address the phenomenon. Young footballers are the most affected. The International Olympic Committee’s Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports Movement prohibits exploitation of young athletes and explicitly states that for the protection of athletes:

• Measures should be taken to prohibit exploitation of young athletes
• Athletes should be protected from unscrupulous recruiters and agents
• Cooperation with the government of the countries concerned should be developed
• Codes of conduct should be signed by all sport organisations

FIFA on the other hand has taken steps to limit the exploitation of young footballers, primarily through its Transfer Matching System (TMS) and the enforcement of regulations prohibiting the international transfer of minors. However, sport governing bodies and authorities can only regulate activities within the scope of organized competition. Other active international organisations, NGOs, and charities dedicated to assisting and protecting vulnerable youths are faced with the complexity of the issue of child trafficking – issues of jurisdiction and resources, enforcement of existing resolutions and regulations and an absence of a coordinated effort to implement recommendations. A root cause analysis carried out by Mission 89 cited the ineffectiveness of measures taken so far to include a lack of coordination between key actors, inadequate resources to implement and enforce policies and a lack of prioritization of the issue by governments and national sport federations.

Against this background and to mark this year’s EU Anti-trafficking Day, this event aims to bring together European policy makers and key stakeholders to set the foundation for a multi- sectoral dialogue and approach to addressing child trafficking in sport. EU policy makers and development aid can play a key role in affecting meaningful change on this issue, leading awareness and advocacy and making a statement of no tolerance on trafficking in sports.


  • Al Bangura, Former Premier League Player (Watford FC) and trafficking victim
  • Brett Clothier, IAAF, Head of Athletics Integrity Unit
  • Roberto Branco Martins, European Football Agents Association
  • Bulent Tansel, Interpol
  • Chris Eaton, ex-FIFA, ex-Interpol
  • Paolo Bertaccini, Advisor to the ITA Government on Sport Integrity
  • Mathieu Moreuil, The Premier League,
  • James Johnson, Head of Professional Football FIFA
  • Benjamin Smith, International Labor Organization
  • Yatta Dakowah, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • John Dorber, Council of Europe

The panel discussions will address the issue of human trafficking as related to professional sport. This will include raising awareness of the magnitude of the problem, achieving consensus and commitment to taking action and determining how the EU can tackle this phenomenon.

Discussion will focus on 3 main areas:

I. Sharing of knowledge, information, and evidence-based research on the issue.
II. Impact of trafficking on youth, sport and the community;
III. Action Plan and Solutions: Looking at ways to assess, manage and mitigate risks in preventing trafficking within sport.


WELCOME – Opening remarks by MEP Bogdan Wenta;

KEYNOTE – THE ISSUE – A brief introduction by Ms Lerina Bright, on trafficking, its root causes, why it is an issue for football and Mission 89 approach to combating trafficking in sport through a presentation;

RESEARCH REPORT – “Contextualizing Child Trafficking in Football: Forms, Factors, and Dynamics”, by Dr Serhat Yilmaz and Dr Eleanor Drywood. With a view to put child trafficking in football into context, the presentation is to explain forms of human trafficking in football, outline the underlying factors of the phenomena, and put into a perspective of its specific dynamics;

• VICTIM INTERVIEW – A video account by a victim of child trafficking in sport;

• STAKEHOLDER DISCUSSION – Panelists provide their perspective on the issue of the issue of child trafficking in sport and potential solutions;

• BEST PRACTICE & SOLUTIONS – Open discussion of the issue and possible ways to coordinate a multi-stakeholder solutions-focused response;

• CALL TO ACTION – Next steps and plan of action;


Our target participants include: European and African policy makers (MEPs, Commission, ACP, Council of Europe) involved in sport regulations, development, child rights and education; representatives of civil society, NGOs, academia, and the private sector, involved in the development and safeguarding of youth. This event is by invitation only. Total number of participants – 75 persons


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