2022 FIFA World C(orr)up(tion)

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That’s the way the FIFA World Cup crumbles. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Bribes, human rights abuse, and concerns for the safety of attendees

The men’s FIFA World Cup is taking place next month in Qatar. However, this has sparked controversy about how Qatar was selected to be the host country for the 2022 World Cup. For almost a decade, many have suspected Russia and Qatar of buying votes in hopes of winning hosting rights for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, although Russia and Qatar have denied any involvement.

In 2020, the United States Department of Justice investigated allegations surrounding FIFA and the buying of votes. They reported that representatives working for Russia and Qatar had indeed bribed FIFA officials in order to secure hosting rights for the men’s World Cups. It is alleged that Qatar paid between $1-15 million to three soccer officials from South America for votes. Prosecutors were able to highlight how the corruption scheme took place which included paying five members of FIFA’s top board ahead of voting for Russia and Qatar to be host countries.

Prosecutors have been able to charge officials and individuals in this case on a variety of different charges, including money laundering and fraud. This included the United States extraditing multiple people to stand trial in the USA. According to the New York Times, “more than half the people involved in the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, including the former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, have been accused of wrongdoing, though not necessarily criminally charged.”

The World Cup also normally provides billions in profits for hosting nations. The 2018 World Cup saw Russia rake in roughly $5.36 billion in overall revenues, which wound up being more than $3.5 billion in total profits. This provides a big incentive for nations wanting to host the World Cup in their country, therefore leading to multiple forms of corruption due to both financial need and the incentive to host these big events where billions of people will be watching.

The allegations against Qatar have sparked controversy over corruption in addition to issues surrounding human rights. The limitation of freedom of expression and assembly in Qatar has sparked outrage, especially in democratic countries competing in Qatar. In a 2021 investigation, the Guardian discovered significant prohibitions imposed by the government of Qatar in the labour force that led to more than 6,500 deaths of migrant workers since 2010. It was revealed that approximately three dozen of those who died were working on construction relating to the World Cup.

Human Rights Watch reports that thousands of migrant workers have experienced labour abuses while preparing for the World Cup, and that no financial compensation has been given. In June of 2021, the Norwegian men’s national team wore protest t-shirts stating “Human Rights On and Off the Pitch[AD1] .” This display was made before their match, demanding justice for migrant workers in Qatar.

There are also concerns over the rights in Qatar for those in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as Qatar has a horrific human rights record regarding 2SLGBTQIA+ issues. Countries such as Wales have spoken publicly, saying that some of their support staff will not be attending the games in Qatar due to fears over their safety and security within Qatar. In Qatar, same-sex relations are punishable by a three-year prison sentence. A senior Qatari security official for the World Cup stated recently that 2SLGBTQIA+ fans would be allowed to attend games, however, rainbow flags were to be confiscated if flown during the events. They later stated that this is to protect those flying the flag from being physically attacked.

Qatar officials have repeatedly tried to convince people concerned over their treatment of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals that they will be safe. However, most don’t believe that the Qatar government will live up to that promise. The Independent Supporters Council of North America put out a statement saying that “we cannot, in good faith, tell our members, LGBTQ+ people or allies, that this is a World Cup for all.”

In an interview, England manager Gareth Southgate said this in response to fans feeling unsafe due to discriminatory practices by Qatar towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community: “We stand for inclusivity as a team – that’s been the big driver of a lot of the stance we’ve taken in the last couple of years – and it would be horrible to think some of our fans feel they can’t go because they feel threatened or worried about their safety.” England international player Jordan Henderson responded to a briefing given to him and his teammates regarding the human rights issues in Qatar by saying that “When we were given the briefing the other day, it was quite shocking and disappointing. Horrendous, really, when you hear some of the issues that have been happening there. It is a really important topic, and we really need to get it right as a team.”

Another coach who spoke out was the manager for the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal, who didn’t mince words in saying that “It’s ridiculous that we are going to play in a country – how does FIFA say it – ‘to develop the football there.’ That is bullshit. But it doesn’t matter – it’s about money, commercial interests. That’s the main motive of FIFA.” These concerns over corruption and human rights abuses were also seen at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as many Russian policies echo those of Qatar.

This is not the first time that there has been controversy over certain nations hosting international events. During the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, many democratic countries including the United States came out saying that they would not be sending government officials or representatives from their countries to the Olympics due to concerns stemming from human rights abuses in China. The 2022 World Cup is set to begin on November 20.

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