- Today is the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
- FIFA launched the FIFA Guardians Programme in July 2019
- The goal is to introduce stronger child safeguarding measures in football
Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for profit and numerous other purposes.
Every country is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. Criminals the world over continue to traffic women and girls for sexual exploitation and forced labour, whilst conflict further exacerbates victims' vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting those displaced from their homes.
The world of sport, including football, has not been spared from this problem. Every year, thousands of young people, particularly from Africa, Asia and South America, are at risk of being sold a false dream of a career in Europe by those who may aim to exploit them for profit and economic gain.
In September 2015, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and embraced global goals and targets to end all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, including trafficking in persons.
On 10 July 2019, FIFA launched the FIFA Guardians Programme, a new initiative to assist FIFA’s member associations and confederations around the world and introduce stronger child safeguarding measures in football.
Millions of children around the world are involved in either organised or recreational football. Irrespective of how they are involved, these children all have in common the right to enjoy the sport in a safe environment and in a culture of respect and understanding.
Containing practical guidance and support materials, FIFA’s online toolkit is based on “five principles and five steps” that are underpinned by recognised international standards and best practice in child safeguarding across sport. The FIFA Guardians programme is based on the premise that keeping children safe from harm is “up to all of us”, no matter the country we are from or the role we hold in football.
The protection of minors is also one of the essential pillars of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. In 2001, FIFA adopted strict rules to combat the exploitation and mistreatment suffered by young players. The protection of minors was one of the principles included in the agreement concluded between FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission in March 2001 and remains one of the core objectives of the football transfer system.
Article 19 of the Regulations only permits the international transfer of players aged 18 or above, with five stipulated exceptions. Article 19bis of the same Regulations explicitly provide rules applicable to the registration and reporting of minors at club academies.
As the international global regulator, FIFA must consider the life prospects of all young players; not only the elite few, but also the majority that never make it to the highest professional level.
In a further sign of strengthening its commitment to the protection of minors, as part of its new football agent framework, FIFA will require any agent wishing to represent a minor to undergo various clearances and safeguarding training. In addition, an online football agent directory will be made publicly available listing all licensed agents with the authority to represent minors.
In line with its zero-tolerance policy against physical, mental and sexual abuses at all levels of football, in September 2019 FIFA made some important updates to its Code of Ethics to explicitly cover sanctions for sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation.
As a matter of fact, the independent Ethics Committee has recently imposed the harshest possible penalty, namely a life ban and a fine in the amount of CHF 1,000,000, to sanction cases of sexual abuse.