17 November 2022 – Recent decades have brought comprehensive changes to sport. Globalization, a huge influx of money at the top level of professional sport, rapid growth of legal and illegal sports betting and marked technological advances have transformed the way sport is performed and consumed.
In tandem with this, associated corruption risks have greatly affected the systems used for the transfer of athletes, putting minors and vulnerable adults at risk, according to a new advocacy paper on crime, corruption and wrongdoing in the transfer of football players and other athletes released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Building on the findings of the 2021 UNODC Global Report on Corruption in Sport, the advocacy paper sheds light on crime and corruption issues in the transfer of athletes. These issues include associated illicit financial flows and money laundering, the hiding and disguising of beneficial ownership through transfer transactions of athletes, trafficking in persons, migration and labour-related issues, among others.
Crime and wrongdoing associated with these transfer systems indicate the shortcomings within governance systems in sport. As this latest advocacy paper highlights, the enforcement of regulations that can help effectively manage systems for the transfer of athletes has been undermined by inconsistencies and legislative loopholes that are being exploited.
Strong anecdotal evidence indicates a variety of corrupt and criminal conducts in transactions related to the transfer of athletes, from illicit financial flows to trafficking in persons. Yet authoritative empirical research is limited.
States and governments no longer exercise jurisdiction over the private regulation of workplaces in sport. The problem of trafficking in sport suggests that this lack of jurisdiction correlates with the sector’s vulnerability to trafficking. In sport, workplaces can include powerful private transnational organizations and institutions. This regulatory gap allows for unequal power relationships, especially in recruitment, which makes this space particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
As a result, there is an urgent need to further raise awareness of these risks and to address these regulatory gaps. This is among a range of considerations and recommendations the paper sets out for governments and sports organizations. Also among them is the need to build the capacities required to properly prevent, detect, investigate and sanction criminal elements linked to the transfer of athletes.
Interested? Start exploring the research paper 'Crime, corruption and wrongdoing in the transfer of football players and other athletes' here.