Published on December 20, 2023  
students on the walsall pitch

 Whether you know it as ‘soccer’ or ‘football,’ the ‘beautiful game’ is so called because of its ability to bring diverse people groups together. But among all the beauty of the world’s game, there exists an ugly, dark side. Every year thousands of children, primarily from African countries, are recruited by unlicensed scouts and agents and promised the opportunity to travel to Europe to play for major soccer clubs. Families often leverage everything they own to help their sons pursue soccer stardom. However, most of these teenagers don’t make it onto a top professional team, leaving them to fend for themselves in a foreign country with little to no money.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, the trafficking and smuggling of young African footballers to Europe via countries in North Africa is a growing problem. "These young boys, mostly in their teens, are often subjected to inhumane conditions and some die while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea illegally."

Ben Boycott, founder of Sovereign Football Club, managing director of Trivela Group and director of the Walsall Football Club, and his colleagues are employing innovative strategies to bring about meaningful change for thousands of young African soccer players and their families caught in this trap. You can read more about Ben's vision in this article written by Dr. Darin White entitled Pushing Back Darkness in the Beautiful Game.

walsall logo and trivelia group

Recently, Professor White and several students studying in Samford’s sports marketing and analytics program worked on a project to assist in these efforts. The project concluded with a trip to England and a presentation to sports industry executives at Walsall F.C.

White said, “By helping Walsall F.C. grow its revenue we empower them to be more impactful in this area. It’s incredible work that Ben and his colleagues are doing to bring change to the world of professional soccer. To be a small part of his work was a life-changing experience for our students.”