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Exploitation and child protection in sport

Exploitation and child protection in sport

In football, FIFA established a transfer regulation in September 2001 that contained a number of clauses relating to the protection of underage players, training compensation and a ‘solidarity mechanism’.

In addition, underage players are not allowed to transfer unless the player’s family moves for ‘non football-related’ reasons. Players are only allowed to transfer if the club provides both sport and academic training, but this pertains only for transfers taking place within the EU-EEA.

Recent research has shown that excessive sports practice and pressure associated with performance sport are considered a violation of children’s rights. Some sports are considered among the ‘worst forms of child labour’ (such as camel-jockeying) due to the dangerous nature of the sport itself.

Child labour in sport

Child labour in sport gained particular attention in the 1990s, particularly when extensive media coverage reported that sporting goods manufacturers were using underage children in various countries, who were paid far less than the minimum wage to manufacture footballs, garments and so on. The news was particularly harmful to the sporting goods industry due to the horrific claims that these children were making items that they themselves would never have the chance to use.

Evidence therefore shows that children run the risk of being exploited not only in the sport they might be involved but also by working in the divisions of the sports industry that remain largely unregulated. 

The use of child labour in the sporting goods industry has been a concern among trans-national subsidiaries abroad and more often in local subcontractor plants and manufacturing outlets. A taskforce on manufacturing processes concluded an assessment of the extent and scope of child labour in the soccer ball industry. A meeting with the ILO and lasting negotiations with producers (subcontractors) in Pakistan developed an industry-wide programme to eliminate all forms of child labour in soccer ball manufacturing. In 1997, a Model Code of Conduct for global business practices that addresses working conditions in factories abroad was developed.