The Center for Fraud Prevention

Helping youth sports associations fight theft and embezzlement.


Fraud and embezzlement are taking place at alarmingly increasing rates in amateur youth sports leagues across the country. What makes these organizations uniquely vulnerable to crime? Here are a few reasons:


1.         Members are volunteers

Nearly all youth sports organizations are manned by volunteers at the local level. For various reasons, there is often a low level of accountability and oversight. Getting experienced volunteers to handle finances is challenging. The volunteers who do step up are often parents with little financial background or experience. The other parental volunteers in the organization, in charge of maintaining fields, forming teams or recruiting coaches, are often thrilled that someone else has volunteered to keep track of the finances. Frankly speaking, it is one of the important jobs that no one wants. This makes for a situation ripe for abuse.  

2.         The organization lacks formal structure

In well run organizations, whether registered as a ‘for profit’ entity or as a ‘non-profit’, monthly financial reports are generated which are carefully reviewed by officers and boards of directors. There are also checks and balances that exist for those with access to the bank accounts. This just simply is not so with youth organizations. For the reasons set forth above, even if financial reports are generated, board members and other volunteers are often not experienced in reviewing them. Further, there is often no formal budgeting process where organization leaders can compare budgeted figures with actual figures.

Lack of controls exist for organizations that do have a board of directors. However, many youth sports programs do not have a board; they do not have enough people willing to oversee the programs. Parents often prefer to pay an additional fee than to volunteer their time. The result is an informally arranged handful of people with undefined roles in charge of running the organization.

3.         Volunteers are part of the same community

Board members and other organization leaders are usually neighbors and parents of kids who go to school together; these folks interact on a personal level at school functions and on the ball fields. The level of trust which necessarily builds is unique to the youth sports program. This trusting environment emboldens someone willing to commit fraud or embezzle from the organization as he or she may believe they will not get caught. When the same person is in the treasurer or similar position for many years, there is a natural level of trust by those in the organization; however, parents should be thinking the opposite. In many case studies, the organizations who lost the most to fraud and embezzlement are the ones who had the same people in control for many years.