Minors in Sport. Position Paper on Legal Aspects of Minors in Sports in the Slovak Republic

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1 General overview: International and European aspects

Since within the European Union and the globalized world of today the domestic regulations can not be isolated from the international situation, an overview of global problems of minors in sport has to be offered first. The basic problems identified thereby will be subsequently briefly analyzed in the context of Slovak Republic.

A wide-spread view of position of young players, especially of those involved in football, is based on terms such as "new slave trade" or "human trafficking". This viewpoint is shared not only by theoreticians such as prof. Roger Blanpain, founder of FIFPro, who equals trade with young players to cattle handling, but also by officials of international sporting federations.

For Lennart Johansson, the former president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the business with African talent is "child abduction and nothing else." The United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a report warning that "a modern 'slave trade' is being created with young African players." In Belgium, the politician Jean-Marie Dedecker investigated 442 cases of alleged human trafficking with Nigerian players. Many of them ended up on the street or even in prostitution. There are also reports of thousands of boys who went to Italy, hoping to make careers as footballers, and then disappeared. This is what a French non-governmental organization, Foot Solidaire, is fighting against, being backed also by the representatives of FIFA and UEFA. Michel Platini from UEFA is reported to have said not so long ago:

  "Everybody is shocked when children are discovered to make
  footballs in a factory, yet nobody seems to be shocked
  when a nine-year-old Brazilian prodigy signs up with a
  European club. There is no difference between paying a
  child to play football or paying a child to work at an
  assembly line. It is in both cases nothing less than child
  labour. And to fly the child together with his parents
  from one continent to another is child trafficking. The
  majority of them simply do not turn out to be the new
  Ronaldinho ... In the eyes of Europe free trade of
  employees exists from the age of 16 onwards. But is this
  realistic when many countries have a compulsory school
  attendance until 18? According to the United Nations'
  treaty on the rights of children anybody under eighteen is
  considered to be a child. If young players leave their
  club at a tender age, it will make it difficult for
  countless clubs to continue their training efforts. This
  measure undermines clubs that train youngsters, and it
  encourages child trafficking ... It is for this reason
  that international transfers of players younger than 18
  ought to be prohibited. I put the protection of a child
  before free trade of employees. Children have the right
  to grow up amongst their friends and family ... I have
  therefore thought about this problem a great deal and
  I am now convinced that the international transfer of
  players under 18 should be prohibited, fully in
  accordance with the FIFA statutes. Some people talk
  about the free movement of workers. I am talking about the
  protection of children. Some talk about competition law. I
  am talking about the right to respect human integrity; a
  child's right to grow up surrounded by their friends and
  family."

Sepp Blatter from FIFA took a similar position:

  "They are taken at 14 or 15 years old with clubs saying
  that their parents are going too. But they get put into
  another family, and what happens to them? One out of say
  20 has a chance to go on in their career. The others are
  left, and they need to be protected ... We now have a
  committee where each case is dealt with individually to
  see if a transfer can be allowed or not ... It is the
  start of greater control of our game. It is to protect the
  young players."

From the given quotations, the following main problem areas can be identified on the international level:

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