DRUG traffickers pose as Premier League scouts to recruit children into county gangs, football bosses warned yesterday.
They have been spotted hanging out after training sessions and games to target 13 and 14 year olds.
But the traffickers are not interested in getting them into high profile clubs – they want to prepare them as drug traffickers, the FA says.
After sending a warning email to the clubs, a coach said: “Professional club scouts have strict protocols to follow and are not allowed to show up to games unannounced.
“The vast majority of children dream of becoming a professional footballer and playing for England so it’s easy to see how they could be fooled by someone in a Premier League club tracksuit pretending to be a scout.
“It’s really shocking. I just hope the police and authorities can crack down on this.
The croupiers have set their sights on players in the South East London and Kent regions.
Clubs are asked to contact the police or the FA if they see anything suspicious.
An email sent to clubs by London FA protection officer Lewis Warren warns of false scouts lying around in matches and training sessions.
He says: “They pretended to be Premier League club scouts. Individuals were noted as specifically requesting 13/14 year olds.
“It looks like a possible county / grooming line circuit and therefore we and the clubs have to be vigilant. Please be sure to remind officials, parents and children in your club of the backup procedures. “
Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent, said: ‘These sick criminals are exploiting the hopes and dreams of young footballers to lure them into their evil ways.
“Since this disgusting tactic can occur elsewhere, clubs must remain vigilant.”
Neither the London FA nor the Met Police responded to requests for comment.