As with all sectors, supply chains are also an issue for mega-sporting events and large sports clubs; long, complex supply chains crossing jurisdictions means that it is difficult for buyers to carry out sufficient due diligence processes or to achieve consistent labour standards from primary resource to finished product. Fragmented business structures will exacerbate this risk.
Construction is a major risk area in mega-sporting events; the need for venue, access and hospitality infrastructure is associated with a range of human rights issues including modern slavery (particularly of migrants) and forced displacement. Other key areas of concern for the sports sector as a whole are: hospitality, the production of material goods for retail, security and maintenance staff, land grabbing and the athletes or players at risk of human trafficking.
Approaches to implementing operational-level grievance mechanisms and remedy processes are outlined in the UNGPs, however often fragmented business structures pose a challenge to policy implementation beyond a superficial, tick-box layer.
The Modern Slavery Act has had little impact in galvanising the sports sector to take steps to combat modern slavery as evidenced by the poor disclosures of some of the football clubs whose statements we examined. Whilst there is growing evidence of legal, reputational and operational risks faced by organisations that are identified as having modern slavery in their supply chains, or who breach human rights, there appears to be little focus on these issues as a sector.
There is a need for governing bodies to take a more active role in providing leadership, guidance and training on these issues. Whilst the enquiry is focussed on modern slavery and sport, the relative immaturity of sustainable business models in the sports sector should not be overlooked.
There are some excellent examples of work being done in other sectors that can be drawn on as a model for the sports sector.
The impact of the different sports leagues such as football, provides a great opportunity for the leagues and most prominent clubs to set examples in tackling modern slavery issues for other associated clubs.