Premier League: child trafficking reports ‘very concerning’
Bogus agents reportedly luring young people to Britain with promises of football club trials
The Premier League is to question football clubs about “very concerning” reports of bogus scouts luring children into slavery in the UK with false promises of trials for top teams.
The Times reported on Saturday that budding footballers duped into believing they have been “discovered” are among thousands of young people being trafficked to Britain. “The child may then be sold on or forced into sexual exploitation,” according to the newspaper.
Fraudsters posing as football agents have been approaching families, many in Africa, asking for payments of up to £10,000 to take their child for trials at top clubs such as Arsenal or Manchester United.
Responding to the reports, the Premier League said that its clubs would never ask families from overseas for cash payments for trials and that strict rules prohibit English clubs from even registering players aged under 18 from outside Europe.
A spokesperson said: “It is very concerning to hear that scammers and fraudsters are attempting to trick people in this way, and that it can lead to such awful circumstances for young people.
“Premier League clubs would never ask families from overseas to pay for elite football trials for their children. Clubs take the education and welfare of the young players in their academies and on their community programmes very seriously and have high safeguarding standards.”
The League is urging anyone with concerns to contact the organisation’s safeguarding team.
The Times says that clubs including Tottenham Hotspur have called in authorities after children arrived at their stadiums believing they had been selected for trials.
Kevin Hyland, the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner, told the paper: “I’ve met children who were brought from Nigeria, for example, expecting to play for some of the best football teams in the country. But they were just lured on that promise and then when they arrived were exploited in many ways, whether that be sexual exploitation or forced labour.”
The Times investigation found that only 6% of crimes recorded by police under the Modern Slavery Act (2015) have led to charges. Other scams include luring young people to the UK on the promise of a holiday, or a modelling contract.