Neo-colonialization: Betting companies and European football clubs are destroying international sport and exploiting the world’s poorest youth

International sport has undergone explosive development in recent decades, especially in relation to financial turnover and capital interests in European club football. The vast majority of football fans, both in Denmark and throughout the world, will immediately consider this very positive. In my opinion, however, this development is on its way to destroying international sport and unfortunately also the everyday life and lives of many young people in the poorest of the world’s poorest continents: Africa, Asia and Latin America. My conclusion was unfortunately confirmed and reinforced at Play the Game 2024, which is currently being held in Trondheim. Presentations from the research journalist Philippe Auclair from Josimar and the English film documentarian Zoë Flood should concern everyone who has an interest in and not least responsibility for Danish sport and international sport.

“Betting world wide” is “real big business”

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual report 2023 estimates that the total economic turnover in betting today is 1,000 trillion per year, which corresponds to the combined Gross National Product (GDP) for Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands. Likewise, UNODC estimates that more than 3/5 of the turnover in betting is illegal. And that illegal gambling is growing at twice the rate of legalized gambling.

Advertisements and logos on Premier League football shirts are the way to gamblers’ “hearts”

European top clubs in England, Germany and Spain have gigantic commercial contracts with both legal and illegal betting companies that conduct their business from states such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Cayman Islands, Macao, Isle of Man and Malta. Danish football fans who follow Premier League matches – played live at 6-8 different times during the weekend – can see undisguised that almost all PL clubs carry advertisements and logos for betting companies on their shirts. Likewise, TV viewers and not least “gamblers” from all over the world are served in different languages by the stadium’s electronic advertisements. According to the Council of Europe’s Macolin Convention on match-fixing, betting companies must be approved to offer games by a license. Betting companies that are granted a license must comply with the legislation of the country where the “gambler” resides. The biggest challenge, however, is that a number of betting companies carry out their “activity” illegally in Asia, China and Africa at the same time that these companies advertise their “products” on the players’ shirts.

Betting is a global market – 24/7/365

Online betting on football matches attracts young people in particular. The largest continental market is states in Africa – such as Uganda, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon – where the interest in football, especially from the Premier League, is extremely high. And where the number of children and young people is increasing explosively. Today, more than 70 percent of the population of these states are young people under the age of 30. Both legal and illegal betting companies have long since “discovered” that the biggest market is on the world’s poorest continent, which was documented by Zoë Flood for the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) a few years ago. Flood documents that the betting companies’ “activities” create enormous social, economic and human problems in Uganda, where betting forms a large part of the everyday life of 15-year-old boys. Betting is officially allowed only for persons over 25 years of age, but in practice the law is not enforced, neither by the police at “betting shops” nor by the Ugandan government. Flood also emphasized that betting today is a much bigger problem than alcohol and drugs for young people. In addition, unemployment among young men in the vast majority of African states is extremely high, which makes the “dream of fast and big money” by betting an essential part of everyday life. Flood also pointed out that the winners of betting in Uganda are clearly the betting companies, which earn 43 percent of the turnover, while the “customers” only get paid 39 percent of the turnover. The remaining 18 percent accrues to the state by tax from the betting companies. The public authorities have chosen to turn a blind eye and not introduce more and better restrictions, as the fear of losing tax revenue is too great.

Betting is also part of organized crime

Philippe Auclairs emphasized at Play the Game 2024 that betting is not “only” about gigantic sums of money and money laundering, but also about people with gambling debts who are threatened, raped, tortured and “offered to stay” in camps. But betting, in my opinion, is mainly about European football – both UEFA, national confederations, Premier League and Champion League clubs with commercial cooperation contracts with betting companies – and not least about fans of top European clubs such as Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-German – also in the future – will “close their eyes and ears” to neo-colonialization of the world’s poorest youth.