Qatar hosts FIFA Men’s World Cup, source of controversy for sponsors, players and fans

After the Olympics, there is no greater global sporting event than the quadrennial FIFA Men’s World Cup. The four-week, 64-game football tournament kicks off on Sunday, November 20 in Qatar. FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup, estimates that five billion people around the world will tune in. Compared to the estimated 3.5 billion who tuned in to matches in 2018, of which 1.1 billion watched the final game between France and Croatia. In the United States, Fox will provide live coverage in English and Telemundo will provide live coverage in Spanish.

Similar to the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, Qatar hosting the World Cup is causing controversy. Starting with the selection as the host nation. In addition, there are concerns about human rights abuses in the construction of infrastructure to host the World Cup. In addition, there are strict laws prohibiting homosexuality. As with the Beijing Olympics, sponsors will be on track around these controversies.

The selection of Qatar raised eyebrows. The nation is smaller than Connecticut with a population of less than three million, making it the smallest nation to host the World Cup. Moreover, Qatar are not a footballing power having never fielded a World Cup team in the previous 21 tournaments (as hosts they qualify for the 2022 tournament). Another issue was the weather, usually the World Cup is played in the summer, however, Qatar, a desert nation, has an average high temperature of a humid 108 degrees Fahrenheit in July. As a result, FIFA initially moved the tournament to late autumn, when the average high in Qatar is 85 degrees. Qatar is also the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup or the Olympics.

In December 2010, FIFA selected Russia and Qatar as hosts of the Men’s World Cup for 2018 and 2022 respectively. It had long been suspected that representatives of both nations had bribed voting members of FIFA. Russia was selected from bids from England and joint bids from the Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal. In a run-off, Qatar were preferred over the United States, with Australia, Japan and South Korea also submitting bids.

In 2014, with accusations of corruption swirling around FIFA, an investigation was launched into possible fraud and money laundering. The investigation was strongly supported by several global sponsors of FIFA, including Sony, Adidas, Coca-Cola
, Visa, Hyundai and BP. At the time, a spokesman for longtime sponsor Adidas said: “The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is not good for football or for FIFA and its partners.” Additionally, a Coca-Cola spokesperson said: “We are confident that FIFA takes these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly through the FIFA Ethics Committee’s investigative chamber. Fifa”.

The investigation led to several indictments, with senior FIFA officials admitting to accepting bribes. Since then, more than half of FIFA’s executive management has been replaced. Sepp Blatter, then FIFA president, who oversaw the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, was banned from football for life along with other top FIFA executives.

With little infrastructure to accommodate the 32 football teams and over a million visitors expected over the four weeks; Qatar has invested $220 billion in the construction of seven new stadiums (all less than 50 miles apart), 100 new hotels, roads, a new metro system connecting the stadiums, a new airport to handle the 1,300 flights expected dailies, visitor centers and shopping malls among other facilities. In contrast, Russia paid $11.6 billion to host the 2018 World Cup.

To build the infrastructure, Qatar employed around 30,000 workers, most of them from South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines. The controversy has become treatment migrant workers received. This caught the attention of several prominent human rights organizations.

In 2016, Amnesty International claimed that migrant workers were denied wages, forced to pay recruitment fees, had their passports withdrawn and lived in unsanitary conditions. In response, Qatar in 2017 issued laws to prevent migrants from working in sweltering heat, reduced working hours and improved living conditions.

In 2021, Human Rights Watch said migrant workers still saw their pay withheld or reduced and still worked long, grueling hours. Other human rights organizations, including the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as media companies and trade unions, have also drawn attention to the squalid conditions of migrant workers. .

In July 2020, several human rights organizations approached 14 FIFA sponsors and asked them to put pressure on FIFA to improve working conditions for workers. Four of them responded; AB InBev/Budweiser, Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

In a statement, AB InBev/Budweiser said: “We support access to procedures that can provide fair remedies to migrant workers who have been adversely affected. A statement from McDonald’s read: “We will continue to work with FIFA, human rights experts and other sponsors to help drive positive human rights change, including supporting processes that facilitate access to remedies, both around the tournament and the communities we serve.”

In February 2021 The Guardian report that 6,500 migrant workers have died since Qatar won the World Cup. This is a figure disputed by Qatar. The Qatari government has enacted new labor reform laws and a spokesman noted that hosting the World Cup has accelerated reforms.

Last month, Amnesty International published the findings of a YouGov poll which revealed that nearly three-quarters of respondents believe FIFA should allocate part of the World Cup revenue to pay migrant workers. Support was highest among World Cup viewers (84%). The survey was conducted among 17,000 respondents in 15 countries.

Qatar considers homosexuality to be illicit behavior that can lead to up to three years in prison, although the host country says “all visitors are welcome”. Qatar, however, warned against any public display of affection. Qatar National Committee chairman General Al Ansari has said rainbow flags could be banned during the World Cup. Joyce Cook, a FIFA officer, told The Associated Press that “rainbow flags, t-shirts will be welcome in the stadium.”

There are other restrictions, including the consumption of alcohol in public, there will be designated drinking areas for World Cup ticket holders before and after (but not during) each game. Also, revealing skin like thighs and shoulders is illegal.

Several football teams participating in the World Cup, including Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, have worn warm-up shirts to demand changes in Qatar’s human rights policy. The message conveyed by the Danes and the Dutch was “football supports change”.

Before failing to qualify, the Norwegian team had debated whether to boycott the World Cup. Additionally, the players of the German soccer team in their qualifying match against Iceland spelled “human rights” on their shirts. On human rights, England head coach Gareth Southgate said: “It would be horrible to think that some of our fans think they can’t go because they feel threatened or worried about their safety.”

Nonetheless, while sponsors are wary of Qatar hosting the World Cup, there are marketing benefits. In the United States, the fan base is young, passionate and diverse. Soccer is also gaining in popularity, the MLS has just set a new attendance record. After failing to qualify in 2018, the United States will be among the 32 nations competing, which will help generate interest among viewers. In addition, this year the World Cup falls in the middle of the busiest shopping season. The games coincide with Black Friday (USA plays England on that day), Cyber ​​Monday with the league game scheduled for December 18.

A survey of Morning consultation published earlier this year, 41% of American football fans support companies that sponsor the World Cup, compared to 19% who do not. Despite support from sponsors, most football fans said they would support advertisers who backed out of all controversies.


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