Women’s football is the fastest growing sport globally. Little wonder investments and sponsorships are at highest levels and the quality of talent evidenced at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup shows how quickly the women’s game has evolved. All this attention means many more young girls will be attracted to the sport – bright lights, trophies and a hefty pay check.
World football governing body, FIFA’s 5-pronged Women’s Football Strategy has a stated goal of attracting 60 million talents by 2026. The interest in the women’s games is rapidly growing. Now that the world’s attention is on the growing game and world of possibilities it presents, it’s time to also focus on the threats a growing game brings. Trafficking; for one.
Human trafficking has overtaken trade in narcotics as the second fastest growing criminal venture globally. The growing game brings with it the real threat of becoming a magnet for traffickers looking to lure their next victim. It’s important to work together to make it difficult for criminals to sully this beautiful game, by exploiting vulnerable members of our society in the name of sport. Sport is meant to build bridges and foster unity; it cannot and should not become breeding grounds for modern slavery.
For the record, trafficking in women and children has been reported around men’s club and continental games. Traffickers reportedly use these events as a cover to move vulnerable people they intend to exploit under the guise of sending them for trials. A good number of these victims are not involved in any sport to begin with! It’s already happening, the exploitation of women and children, athletes and non athletes in the name of sport. A growing women’s game provides another avenue for recruiting even more victims. Especially since women are considered to be more vulnerable and are high risk takers because of their strong commitment to family.
By all means, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is one of firsts, the first in which female footballers have their own kits tailor-made, first to have prize money of $30million (still well below the $400million prize money for the Men’s World Cup in 2018), first to attract a projected global viewing audience of 1 billion, first in which some teams receive the same remunerations as male counterparts.
It should also be the first launch pad for global efforts to stamp out trafficking and associated crimes from sport. That requires the concerted efforts of ALL of sport’s governing bodies, governments, civil society organisations, national and global crime fighting agencies.
A growing women’s game is a magnet for talent, let’s ensure it does not become a magnet for traffickers.
Ewurama Kodjo is Communications Lead at Mission 89; a non-profit working to end child trafficking in sport through education, research and advocacy initiatives. Learn more at www.mission89.org