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Plea for football clubs to tackle modern slavery

Slave-Free Alliance is calling on football clubs to work with them to reduce the risk of modern slavery in their day-to-day operations and supply chains.

Slave-Free Alliance is a social enterprise established in 2018. Its multi-disciplined team works with companies to help them understand all forms of exploitation and mitigate potential areas of risk.

The organisation has identified football clubs as being at an inherently high risk of modern slavery, with roles such as security, catering, facilities management and cleaning often outsourced to recruitment agencies.

Additionally, the trafficking of minors into the UK by fraudulent ‘agents’ promising opportunities to make it as a professional footballer is a growing issue, with over 2,000 victims in the UK and more than 15,000 across Europe. Many of these children are abandoned on arrival or subjected to slavery, prostitution, drug dealing or sexual exploitation.

Slave-Free Alliance highlight the work of Mission89 who address this threat and want to collaborate much more extensively with the football industry to address the threat of exploitation in all its forms.

“All football clubs need to be doing a little bit more on their own doorsteps to make sure they are protecting themselves and their people,” said Slave-Free Alliance’s Accounts Director Susan Banister.

“There is currently a ‘head in the sand’ attitude about recognising it as an issue. Football clubs outsource a lot of their operations and their supply chains are also vulnerable to modern slavery. Due diligence is not being done. We want to help them make the correct checks on their workers.

“We’re not expecting clubs to change the world, but we do expect a proportionate reaction within the resources they have. If they’re doing nothing, they have no defensible position. If exploitation is happening, they can be sure it won’t be the recruitment agency that gets written about in the papers, it will be the football club.”

Susan says a simple audit of whether recruitment agencies are checking addresses and next of kin of their workers is the first step. Slave-Free Alliance then works with businesses to make incremental changes, embedding good practice in much the same way as health and safety is now common in any workplace.

Susan says there is a misconception that modern slavery is “all about car washes and nail bars”, but trafficking in the UK is often led by organised crime gangs and cleverly disguised as legitimate practice.

A trafficked person might be placed into a business and earn minimum wage or above, but be hoodwinked into giving most of their wage away to their trafficker, who takes their passport and papers and keeps them shielded from authorities who can help them.

“A trafficked person can be made to look legitimate and won’t appear as a potential risk,” explains Susan. “Our role is often about educating organisations about what modern slavery looks like. They don’t have to do a lot to have a massive impact.”

Slave-Free Alliance has 94 member organisations including 10 FTSE 100 companies.

Victor Riega, Group CR Manager at Aviva, said: “Slave-Free Alliance has been an excellent partner since day one. They understand the challenges that large corporates face when working in this area and tailor their approach accordingly. Their expertise has been evidenced many times through their support with supplier threat assessments, training for employees, and critical review of our policies and procedures. Access to their expertise and resources is key in supporting our efforts to live to our commitment to respecting human rights, and in particular to preventing modern slavery from taking place in our business and in our supply chain.”

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