Minors in Sport. Position Paper on Legal Aspects of Minors in Sports in the Slovak Republic
Sefcik, Julius, Gabris, Tomas, The International Sports Law Journal
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: