football tackle

Undermining by Criminal Benefactors

In 2018, Tilburg University put the theme of “criminal benefactors” on the map. It was known that criminals are also involved in sponsoring socially useful activities, charities, events, and are active in healthcare. However, no systematic research had ever been conducted into how big this problem is and how it manifests itself. As many as one in three Dutch municipalities turned out to have at least one criminal benefactor within their borders.

Criminals also love football

The cases in which such benefactors were involved in football clubs proved to be the most numerous. This prompted further research into the resilience of amateur football in Noord-Brabant and Zeeland against generous donors with dubious backgrounds.

The research “Criminals also love football” was conducted by Bureau Bruinsma and Tilburg University on behalf of the Taskforce-RIEC Brabant-Zeeland. Twelve football clubs from the highest amateur leagues in Noord-Brabant and Zeeland took part in the study. Five of them had, at some time, been approached themselves by a suspicious sponsor.

This research led to a report containing a number of rules of thumb for the boards of amateur sports clubs in order to better arm themselves against criminal benefactors. Taskforce-RIEC Brabant-Zeeland will work on building coalitions with municipalities, the KNVB, football clubs, and the police to tackle this crime, and it has developed an intervention card for municipalities, football clubs, and other interested parties with which they can make a risk assessment.

Research on interventions

The broader phenomenon of criminal benefactors and the search for interventions to thwart them will continue to be a theme for Tilburg University in the coming years. The relevance has also been demonstrated during the recent COVID-19 crisis, as many entrepreneurs are now in financial difficulties and “benefactors” can offer their “help.” For the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, together with Bureau Bruinsma and the Mulier Institute, we are conducting research into the broad problem of criminal interference in Dutch amateur sports.

Further research will focus on “neighborhood crime lords” who often play the “benefactor” in underprivileged neighborhoods who offer a solution to individual problems of loyal neighborhood residents, but also do other fun things for the neighborhood. Not infrequently, these are members of “prominent” criminal families.

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For more information about this project, please contact the coordinator.