PtG Article 07.04.2006

Swedish ombudsman: Boycott World Cup in protest against prostitution

This week, the Swedish Equal Opportunities Ombudsman suggested that Sweden withdraws from the World Cup in football to make a statement against forced prostitution around mega sports events.

"Trafficking is a form of slavery and has been labelled a crime against humanity by the UN. The World Cup in Germany will accelerate trafficking. Therefore Sweden should withdraw from the World Cup to show that this is unacceptable," says Claes Borgstrøm, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman.

He believes that Sweden can make an important statement against trafficking by boycotting the World Cup: "There is an incredible power in football and therefore it would be a fantastic manifestation from the Swedish football movement if Sweden refused to participate as a protest against trafficking. That would start a discussion and hopefully make an impact in the right direction."

Football will only boycott on order from government

Predictably the Swedish Football Federation is not prepared to withdraw from the World Cup.

"It would have enormous consequences for us if we withdraw from the World Cup now. We will probably be excluded from the next World Cup and would also have to deal with the anger of supporters," says president of the Swedish football federation, Lars-Åke Lagrell to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

On a number of previous occasions Lars-Åke Lagrell has stressed his belief that prostitution is not an issue for sports organisations even if the Swedish Football Federations condemns prostitution in general and trafficking in particular.

"We should not go further in our comdemnation than the Swedish government. We will only withdraw if the Swedish government decides on a boycutt," says Lars-Åke Lagrell.

Suggestion that Swedish police go to Germany

The suggestion to boycott the World Cup is the latest contribution to what has become a very heated debate in Sweden about the links between sport and prostitution.

The Swedish Football Federation as well as the Swedish Sports Confederation have tried to argue that combating prostitution and trafficking are political issues and should be dealt with by politicians and the police - not sports organisations. But they have come up against a ground swell of public opinion which has no problem linking sports and politics and demanding that sports organisations assume responsibility for taking a stand against prostitution.

Meanwhile the Swedish Minister of Justice, Thomas Bodström, has said that he will ask his colleagues in the EU to impress on Germany that the country needs to do more stop forced prostitution during the World Cup. The Swedish minister suggests that police from all EU countries  work together during the World Cup:

"I think it would be good if Swedish police could be present in Germany to combat trafficking," says Bodström to Swedish tv4.