London -- Tuesday May 30, 2006
Read also: Soccer, the universal football code, generating modern slave trade
and: Brothel set to score at World Cup
As Germany's sex industry gears up for the millions of men arriving for the World Cup, fears are growing that thousands more women will be forced into prostitution. Julie Bindel investigates
With just 10 days to go until the first matches kick off, shops across Britain are heaving with World Cup merchandise: football shirts, whistles and scarves. And then there are the condoms. At 500 branches of Superdrug, there is a range of condoms tailored for England supporters. They are emblazoned with the slogan "Lie Back and Think of England" and decorated with the cross of St George.
It may seem reassuring that football supporters travelling to Germany are being encouraged to be sensible, but there is a pernicious side to the connection between the 2006 World Cup and sex. Alongside the beer tents and burger bars catering for a massive influx of fans to Germany, entrepreneurs are preparing to sell a product already openly on sale throughout Germany: women.
Germany has legalised its sex industry - Cologne opened the world's first drive-in brothel in 2001. But with three million foreign football fans about to descend on the 12 cities hosting the tournament, entrepreneurs are laying on special facilities. In Berlin, for example, a 3,000sqm mega-brothel has been built next to the main World Cup venue. It is designed to take as many as 650 customers at any one time. Wooden "performance boxes" resembling toilets have been built, with condoms, showers and parking all laid on.
Will they get as much use as everyone seems to think? One man I spoke to in an internet chatroom certainly thinks so. "I will be visiting some lovely ladies between matches, certainly," says George. He tells me he is "looking forward to a bit of exotic". Sam, a chartered surveyor from Leeds, tells me he is travelling to Berlin a week before the tournament, "to get my end away".
But where are all the extra women to come from? In January, the international feminist organisation Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) launched a worldwide campaign to protest against Germany's promotion and public display of prostitution during the World Cup. The organisation is worried that an estimated 40,000 women will be "imported" into Germany from Africa, Asia and central and eastern Europe. (This figure is based on the number of women needed to fill the additional brothels being set up.)
Some of the women currently working in the sex industry elsewhere in Europe will gravitate to Germany to earn extra money. Although not trafficked, many of these women will be being pimped by boyfriends and even family members. Some will send money back to their impoverished families, others will be trying to pay off debts or sustain drug habits.
But others, campaigners say, will be more directly forced - some even kidnapped and smuggled across borders. Elda (not her real name) was trafficked to England from Albania when she was 17 and put to work servicing up to 20 men a day in a brothel in Kings Cross, London. She tells me many of her friends in Albania have been offered the chance to go to Germany for the World Cup. "My pimp told me that I can make thousands because the fans and players want to celebrate when they win."
Is she tempted? She says not. "I often saw football fans who would pass through on their way to take the train home after a match. I had to work 14-hour shifts and was not treated well by them, especially those who wanted to have sex with me in groups."
There is evidence that Germany's pimps are casting their eyes on poverty-stricken countries much further away than Albania in their search for women for the Cup. CATW says it has received calls from the mothers of Brazilian teenagers lured by traffickers. "They are being offered all-expenses-paid trips to go to Germany and 'support their country'," says Janice Raymond, co-director of CATW.
For the teams involved, prostitution has inevitably become an issue. The French coach, Raymond Domenech, is appalled by the prospect of thousands of prostitutes being imported for the tournament. "It is humiliating enough for me that football is linked with alcohol and violence," he says, "but this is worse. Human beings are being talked about like cattle, and football is linked with that."
Lars-Ake Lagrell, president of the Swedish Football Association, is equally adamant. He promises that no Swedish player will use brothels during the World Cup. There have even been calls for the Swedish team to withdraw from the Cup by Claes Borgström, the Swedish government's equality ombudsman, who says he believes the tournament will encourage more men to visit prostitutes. Sweden has a strong record on prostitution: the country criminalised the buying of sexual services seven years ago after a long-running campaign by feminists, supported by many of its female MPs (who comprise almost 50% of its parliament). Since then, trafficking into the country has decreased.
The English Football Association, however, has no intention of even getting into the row over the World Cup sex industry. According to its spokesman, Andrin Cooper, "It is not the concern of the FA if fans go to brothels." The FA's main worry, he says, is about fans winding up the Germans with war references and other insults.
Will McMahon, director of the Crime and Society Foundation, a thinktank that examines the harm caused by antisocial behaviour and crime, says he will not be going to Germany. "I don't want to be around women being bought and sold," he says. "This is an opportunity for the German government to recognise that there are other European countries that find their policy on prostitution offensive."
McMahon believes that, whether prostitution is legal or not, the FA should be advising fans to stay away from brothels in Germany. "The FA should put its cards on the table and condemn the international sex industry as abuse. So far, the message to women is 'We don't give a damn about you.'"
"We need to remember we are a football, not a social, body," argues Cooper. But there are social causes the FA is prepared to take a line on. It has a proud history of campaigning against racism both on and off the pitch, and has supported English players on the receiving end of racism in other countries. Successful campaigns such as Kick Racism out of Football, though, have never been matched with one against sexual violence and exploitation. Stories about domestic violence, visits to brothels, accusations of rape and group sex or "roasting" have surrounded footballers and fans alike - yet the FA appears unwilling to take a stand.
"The FA seem to think women's basic human rights have nothing to do with football," says Heather Harvey of Amnesty International, which runs an international campaign against the trafficking of women and children. "Women will only be trafficked because the arrival of thousands of fans creates a market for them."
To ask England fans what they thought about all this, I went to the Eight Bells pub in west London, a regular for Fulham fans. Some admitted they would "probably go to brothels" - in the same way they would go to coffee shops to smoke hash in Amsterdam. The impression I got was that men who buy sex during the tournament will do so simply because it is so available. British law enforcers are well aware that many England fans will end up paying for sex with trafficked women. Pentameter, a UK-based police operation that investigates human trafficking, is sending 79 officers to Germany during the tournament.
"The investigation and prosecution of criminal activity in Germany is a matter for the German authorities, but we are committed to the prevention and reduction of human trafficking," says its programme director, Graham Maxwell.
British police will intervene if they suspect a crime is being committed by a UK citizen but, bearing in mind that these potential crimes will be committed in legal brothels where UK officers have no jurisdiction, it is unclear what they could actually do. British men who have sex with children overseas can be charged with child abuse back home, but police have not so far warned those travelling to Germany of the obvious - that some women in the brothels will be under-age. They do, however, intend to produce leaflets, to be displayed in men's toilets and bars, warning that some women could be trafficked.
Campaigners against the sex industry say this will make little difference to men eager to add sex with prostitutes to their World Cup experience. Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, has called for a "chorus of voices to discourage England fans from exploiting trafficking victims in Germany". But fans may not care - and might not be able to tell who is trafficked and who is not.
Alina is a woman who knows something about the link between sex and sport. She escaped as traffickers tried to bring her into the UK from Athens in 2002. She had been abducted from her home in Moscow for the Olympic Games. When the games ended, Alina was considered "second-hand" and sold on to another criminal gang, who transported her to London in the hope that she would make money in a Soho brothel. "I was worn out, literally used up and spat out," she says, talking from a safe house in London. "During the games I saw hundreds of men, some British, who thought that a good day was watching sport, drinking and having sex. We were just part of the entertainment".