Over 70 amateur football clubs have noticed signs of organized crime

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Over 70 amateur football clubs in the Netherlands have noticed signals of organized crime trying to get a foothold in the club. These signals include dubious sponsors, people who offer drugs, and sponsors or lenders who want to remain anonymous, RTL Nieuws reports based on its own research.

The broadcaster surveyed 386 amateur football clubs. More than 70 clubs told RTL that they noticed one or more suspicious signs. 41 clubs said they've encountered sponsors or lenders who did not want to give their names. 13 noticed cash payments to players. 12 noticed people who offered or sold drugs in and around the club canteen. Nine encountered lenders or sponsors who only wanted to pay in cash. Nine encountered members or volunteers with ties or suspected ties to the criminal world. Four encountered sponsors with such ties. Two encountered attempts to match fixing. And three noticed other signals. 

In most cases these involved only signals, not actual evidence of criminal undermining. Though the signals are visible at all levels of amateur football, according to the newspaper.

Criminals are interested in football clubs for money laundering purposes, but it can also be a way to create a better image for themselves locally, professor Marjan Olfers of sports and law, said to the broadcaster. "If you put a lot of money in such a club and a lot of promotion is made, that will of course shine enormously back on you. How nice is that?" She stressed that it is important for clubs to make undermining crime a discussable topic in their board. 

Criminologist Monique Bruinsma, who previously investigated undermining in amateur football in Noord-Brabant and Zeeland, told the broadcaster that football managers must be alert, otherwise the door is open for abuse. She believes that football association KNVB, municipalities and police should better help club managers arm themselves against criminals. 

The KNVB is not convinced of the scope of undermining crime in football, but takes the signals seriously, according to RTL. "We take the problem very seriously and feel responsible, but we are a sports association and not an investigative body", the association said. The KNVB does not actively approach clubs, but clubs that are worried or in trouble can turn to one of the association's 18 club advisers. The KNVB wants municipalities, police and ministries to investigate on this front and take action. The association will work with these agencies to address the issue, according to RTL. 

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