2022 FIFA World Cup controversies

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The awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar created a number of concerns and controversies regarding both Qatar's suitability as a host country and the fairness of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) bidding process. Criticism from a number of media outlets, sporting experts, and human rights groups highlighted problems such as Qatar's limited football history, the high expected cost, the local climate, and Qatar's human rights record.[1] There have been numerous allegations of bribery between the Qatar bid committee and FIFA members and executives. Several FIFA members have since gone on record saying that the decision to award the tournament to Qatar was a "mistake" which includes Theo Zwanziger[2] and ex-president Sepp Blatter.[3][4][5]

Human rights issues[edit]

Migrant workers, slavery allegations and deaths[edit]

One of the most touched-on issues of the Qatar World Cup was the treatment of workers hired to build the infrastructure. Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation allege that the Kafala system leaves migrant workers vulnerable to systematic abuse.[6][7] Workers may not change jobs or even leave the country without their sponsor's permission.[6] In November 2013, Amnesty International reported "serious exploitation", including workers having to sign false statements that they had received their wages in order to regain their passports.[8] After visiting a labour camp, Sharan Burrows of the ITUC described the workers as "basically slaves" and added that "If two years on [since the award of the 2022 World Cup] the [Qatari] Government has not done the fundamentals, they have no commitment to human rights".[6] The Qatar 2022 Committee said: "Our commitment is to change working conditions in order to ensure a lasting legacy of improved worker welfare. We are aware this cannot be done overnight. But the 2022 FIFA World Cup is acting as a catalyst for improvements in this regard".[6] Even though in May 2014 Qatar promised reforms to help protect migrant laborers, one year later, little progress has been made. Even if reforms Qatar has promised are implemented, employers will still have considerable power over workers. For example, a proposed requirement that wages must be paid into a designated bank account will not cover laborers paid in cash.[9]

The Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, said that Qatar had become "an open jail" for workers from her homeland.[10] A September 2013 report by The Guardian said a number of Nepalese workers have faced poor conditions as companies handling construction for 2022 World Cup infrastructure forced workers to stay by denying them promised salaries and withholding necessary worker ID permits, rendering them illegal aliens. The Guardian wrote that their investigation "found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organization, during a building binge paving the way for 2022". Nepalese workers in Qatar have been dying at a rate of one per day.[11] A video report accompanying The Guardian's article showed men living in labour camps with unsanitary and dilapidated conditions. Workers told The Guardian they were promised high salaries before coming to Qatar and then their contracts were destroyed upon their arrival to Qatar. Some said they had not been paid in months, but the construction companies denied them their worker IDs or passports, rendering them trapped. Workers described having to beg for food and being beaten. They could try to escape, but if caught without proper papers, they would be arrested.[12][13]

LGBT fans[edit]

The status of homosexuality as illegal in Qatar and punishable by death attracted attention in the media. FIFA President Sepp Blatter initially said: "I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities"; he later added that: "we [FIFA] don't want any discrimination. What we want to do is open this game to everybody, and to open it to all cultures, and this is what we are doing in 2022".[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] After rumors and allegations that Qatar would introduce "medical screening tests" to "detect" and ban homosexuals from entering the country, LGBT activist Peter Tatchell said "FIFA now has no option but to cancel the World Cup in Qatar". However, no such screening test exists. It was later revealed that this proposal came from Kuwait and not Qatar.[21]

Climate[edit]

As the World Cup usually occurs during the northern hemisphere's summer, the weather in Qatar was a concern with temperatures reaching more than 50 °C (122 °F). Two doctors from Qatar's Aspetar sports hospital in Doha who gave an interview in November 2010 to Qatar Today magazine said the climate would be an issue, stating that the region's climate would "affect performance levels from a health point of view" of professional athletes, specifically footballers, that "recovery times between games would be longer" than in a temperate climate and that, on the field of play, "more mistakes would be made". Additionally, one of the doctors said that "total acclimation (to the Qatari climate) is impossible".[22] The inspection team for evaluating who would host the tournament said that Qatar was "high risk" due to the weather. FIFA President Sepp Blatter initially rejected the criticism, but in September 2013 said the FIFA executive committee would evaluate the feasibility of a winter event instead of a summer one.

Provisions inside stadiums[edit]

Qatar bid's chief executive, Hassan al-Thawadi said "Heat is not and will not be an issue".[23] Also, John Smallwood, an award-winning sports columnist for the Daily News, stated that the Qatar 2022 Bid's official site explains:

Each of the five stadiums will harness the power of the sun's rays to provide a cool environment for players and fans by converting solar energy into electricity that will then be used to cool both fans and players at the stadiums. When games are not taking place, the solar installations at the stadiums will export energy onto the power grid. During matches, the stadiums will draw energy from the grid. This is the basis for the stadiums’ carbon-neutrality. Along with the stadiums, we plan to make the cooling technologies we’ve developed available to other countries in hot climates, so that they too can host major sporting events.[24]

Winter World Cup[edit]

The notion of staging the tournament in winter proved controversial; Blatter has said the tournament won't take place in January or February, because it may clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics,[25] while others expressed concerns over a November or December event, because it might clash with the Christmas season (even though Qatar is predominantly Muslim, the football players in the tournament are predominantly Christian).[26] The Premier League voiced concern over moving the tournament to the northern hemisphere's winter as it could interfere with the local leagues. FA Chairman Greg Dyke said, shortly after he took his job in 2013, that he was open to either a winter tournament or moving the tournament to another country.[27] FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar's desert state was a "blatant mistake", and that any potential shift to a winter event would be unmanagable due to the effect on major European domestic leagues.[2]

In October 2013, a taskforce was commissioned to consider alternative dates, and report after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.[28] In early 2014, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke appeared to preempt this, saying: "Frankly, I think it will happen between November 15 and the end of December because that is when the weather is more favourable. It’s more like springtime in Europe". This was controversial within FIFA itself, due to a possible conflict with the Christmas season, and Vice President Jim Boyce responded in saying that "it absolutely has not been decided as far as the executive committee are concerned. It was agreed all the stakeholders should meet, all the stakeholders should have an input and then the decision would be made, and that decision as far as I understand will not be taken until the end of 2014 or the March executive meeting in 2015. As it stands it remains in the summer with no decision expected until end of 2014 or March 2015".[29] Another option to combat heat problems was changing the date of the World Cup to the northern hemisphere's winter, when the climate in Qatar would be cooler. However, this proved just as problematic as doing so would disrupt the calendar of a number of domestic leagues, particularly in Europe.[2]

Franz Beckenbauer, a member of FIFA's executive committee, said Qatar could be allowed to host the 2022 World Cup in winter. He justified his proposal on the grounds that Qatar would be saving money, which otherwise they would have spent in cooling the stadiums. Beckenbauer said: "One should think about another solution. In January and February you have comfortable 25 °C (77 °F) there". "Qatar won the vote and deserves a fair chance as the first host from the Middle East".[30] At a ceremony in Qatar marking the occasion of having been awarded the World Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter later agreed that this suggestion was plausible,[31] but FIFA later clarified that any change from the bid position of a June–July games would be for the host association to propose.[32] Beckenbauer would later receive a 90-day ban from any football-related activity from FIFA after refusing to cooperate in the investigation of bribery.[33]

The notion of holding the Cup during Europe's winter was further boosted by UEFA President Michel Platini's indicating that he was ready to rearrange the European club competitions accordingly. Platini's vote for the summer 2022 World Cup went to Qatar.[34] FIFA President Sepp Blatter also said that despite air-conditioned stadiums the event was more than the games itself and involved other cultural events. In this regard, he questioned if fans and players could take part in the summer temperatures.[35]

In addition to objections by European leagues, Frank Lowy, chairman of Football Federation Australia, said a change of the 2022 World Cup date from summer to winter would upset the schedule of the A-League and said they would seek compensation from FIFA should the decision go ahead.[36] Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, stated that they would consider legal action against FIFA because a move would interfere with the Premier League's popular Christmas and New Year fixture programme.[37]

In September 2013, it was alleged that FIFA had held talks with broadcasters over the decision to change the date of the World Cup as it doing so could cause potential clashes with other scheduled television programming. The Fox Broadcasting Company who had paid $425 million for the right to broadcast both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the USA, later voiced anger over the possible season switch, as doing so would clash with that year's NFL season, which takes place in the winter. The network said they bought the rights with the understanding the tournament would take place in the summer, and if the change did go ahead they would seek compensation.[38] On 12 February 2015, FIFA awarded Fox the rights to the 2026 World Cup, without opening it up for bidding with ESPN, NBC, and other interested American broadcasters.[39] Richard Sandomir of The New York Times reported that FIFA did so to avoid Fox from suing in U.S. courts, which under the American legal system could force FIFA to open up their books and expose any possible corruption.[40] As BBC sports editor Dan Roan observed, "It does not seem to matter to FIFA that rival networks ESPN and NBC may have wanted to bid, or that more money could have been generated for the good of the sport had a proper auction been held. As ever, it seemed, FIFA was looking after itself".[41]

On 24 February 2015, it was announced that a winter World Cup would go ahead in favour of the traditional summertime event. The event is scheduled to be held between November and December. Commentators have noted the clash with the Christmas season is likely to cause disruption, whilst there is concern for how short the tournament is intended to be. The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will also be moved from January to June to avoid African players from having a relatively quick two-week turnaround, although the monsoonal rainy season in its host country Guinea starts about that time.[42]

Transportation[edit]

At the opening of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), The International Association of Public Transport in Qatar, Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Minister of transport, said: “Qatar is currently working on the development of advanced transport infrastructure in the country which will not only help us to prepare for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but will be a legacy for our people and our country". Also, he said "the Doha Metro network with four integrated lines would cover 233 km and 96 stations. In the first phase, the network would run a length of 84 kilometres (52 mi) and would include 38 stations by 2019. There would be a light rail transport network in Lusail, the Lusail LRT, with 32 km of tracks and 35 stations. The project is connected to Doha Metro".[43]

Roads and highways[edit]

According to a staff writer for BQ in 2014, "Qatar currently has about 2,500 km of highways and the set plan is for 8,500 kilometres (5,300 mi) by 2020, in addition to public transport bus lines". The writer quoted Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Minister of transport, who said "local roads now extend to an area covering 9,500 kilometres (5,900 mi) and the set plan is to increase this area to cover 34,000 kilometres (21,000 mi) 2020. We currently have 160 bridges connecting roads and it is expected that the number of bridges would reach 200 by 2020, in addition to increasing the number of tunnels from the current one to 32 in the future".[44]

Public transport[edit]

According to a staff writer for BQ, "work is underway to improve the public bus service and infrastructure and a plan of action has been drawn up covering a period of five years". The writer quoted Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Minister of transport, who said "Qatar has allocated QR 5 billion over the next five years to develop the current fleet of 400 buses in the public transport company to a network of 2,000 buses".[44]

Cost[edit]

By some estimates, the World Cup is going to cost Qatar approximately £138 billion (US$220 billion). This is about 60 times the $3.5 billion that South Africa spent on the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[45] Dr. Nicola Ritter, a German legal and financial analyst, told an investors' summit held in Munich that £107 billion would be spent on stadiums and facilities plus a further £31 billion on transport infrastructure. Ritter said £30 billion would be spent on building air-conditioned stadiums with £48 billion on training facilities and accommodation for players and fans. A further £28 billion will be spent on creating a new city called Lusail that will surround the stadium that will host the opening and final matches of the tournament.[46] According to a report released in April 2013 by Merrill Lynch; the investment banking division of Bank of America, the organizers in Qatar have requested from FIFA to approve a smaller number of stadiums due to the growing costs.[47] Bloomberg.com said that Qatar wishes to cut the number of venues to 8 or 9 from the 12 originally planned.[48] A report released on 9 December 2010 quoted FIFA President Sepp Blatter as stating that Qatar's neighbours could host some matches during the World Cup. However, no specific countries were named in the report.[49] Blatter added that any such decision must be taken by Qatar first and then endorsed by FIFA's executive committee.[31] Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan told the Australian Associated Press that holding games in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and possibly Saudi Arabia would help to incorporate the people of the region during the tournament.[50]

Cultural and political issues[edit]

Qatar and football[edit]

At the time of being awarded the tournament, Qatar were ranked 113 in the world,[51] and had never qualified for the World Cup before. The furthest the team had ever progressed in the AFC Asian Cup was to the quarter-finals in 2000 (repeated in 2011, as hosts). The most prestigious accolade the team had won was the Arabian Gulf Cup twice, both times hosting (won once again in 2014, in Saudi Arabia). Qatar will be the smallest country to host the World Cup (smaller than 1954 hosts Switzerland) and, as of 2010, had a permanent population of less than one million people, less than the 1.7 million population of Uruguay in 1930, when they hosted the tournament. These facts led some to question the strength of football culture in Qatar and if that made them unsuitable World Cup hosts.

The Qatar Football Association has also been known to naturalize players from foreign nations for its own team.[52][53] Examples include Sebastián Soria, Luiz Martin Carlos Júnior and Emerson Sheik. The Qatar FA has previously attempted to offer incentives to uncapped players of other nations to switch allegiance to the Gulf state. These have included the German-based Brazilian trio of Aílton, Dedé and Leandro in 2004 – none of whom have ever played in or have other connections to Qatar – to help their team qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, until FIFA intervened and blocked the move.[54][55]

Qatar also hires migrant workers to fill their empty stadiums in the Qatar Stars League, paying them one dollar an hour to "sit in the stadiums and pretend to have fun".[56]

Alcohol[edit]

Hassan Abdulla al Thawadi, chief executive of the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid, said the Muslim state would also permit alcohol consumption during the event.[57][58] Specific fan-zones will be established where alcohol can be bought.[59][60][61] Although expatriates may purchase alcohol and certain businesses may sell alcohol with a permit, drinking in public is not permitted as Qatar's legal system is based on Sharia.[62]

Israeli qualification[edit]

The head of the Qatar bid delegation stated that if Israel were to qualify, they would be able to compete in the World Cup despite Qatar's not recognising the state of Israel.[58][60][63]

Corruption controversies[edit]

There have been allegations of bribery or corruption in the Qatar's 2022 World Cup selection process involving members of FIFA's executive committee.

2011[edit]

In May 2011, allegations of corruption within the FIFA senior officials raised questions over the legitimacy of the World Cup being held in Qatar. According to then vice-President Jack Warner, an email has been publicised about the possibility that Qatar 'bought' the 2022 World Cup through bribery via Mohammed bin Hammam who was president of the Asian Football Confederation at the time. Qatar's officials in the bid team for 2022 have denied any wrongdoing.[64] A whistleblower, revealed to be Phaedra Almajid, alleged that several African officials were paid $1.5m by Qatar.[65] She later retracted her claims of bribery, stating she had fabricated them in order to exact revenge on the Qatari bid team for relieving her of her job with them. She also denied being put under any pressure to make her retraction. FIFA confirmed receiving an email from her which stated her retraction.[66][67]

2014–15[edit]

In March 2014, it was alleged that a firm linked to Qatar's successful campaign paid committee member Jack Warner and his family almost $2 million. The Daily Telegraph reported that it understands that the U.S. FBI is investigating Warner and his alleged links to the Qatari bid.[68]

On 1 June 2014, The Sunday Times claimed to have obtained documents including e-mails, letters and bank transfers which allegedly proved that Bin Hammam had paid more than 5 million US dollars to Football officials to support the Qatar bid. Bin Hamman and all those accused of accepting bribes denied the charges.[69]

Later in June 2014, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker gave an interview to German media in June 2014 stating that the allegations are being driven by envy and mistrust by parties who do not want the World Cup staged in Qatar, and that the country is not getting the respect it deserves over its efforts to hold the World Cup. He reiterated that the Qatari Emir strictly punishes and forbids instances of corruption and bribery with a zero-tolerance policy.[70]

In an interview published on 7 June 2015, Domenico Scala, the head of FIFA's Audit And Compliance Committee, stated that "should there be evidence that the awards to Qatar and Russia came only because of bought votes, then the awards could be cancelled".[71][72]

2019[edit]

In January, Bonita Mersiades, a whistle-blower from inside Australia's 2022 World Cup bid published a book which alleges that in the months before the vote in December 2010, FIFA executives were privately worried that a Qatar win would leave a financial shortfall for the governing body in 2022 which Al Jazeera (now beIN Sports) agreed a secret deal to pay $100 million if Qatar won the vote. According to the book, the deal took place with the involvement and knowledge of Jérôme Valcke, secretary general of FIFA at the time who was later banned for nine years from football for corruption. The Mail on Sunday asked beIN Sports about the allegations, in which a spokesman characterized the bonus as "production contributions" which were "standard market practice and are often imposed upon broadcasters by sports federations and sports rights holders".[73]

According to leaked documents obtained by The Sunday Times, Qatari state-run television channel Al Jazeera secretly offered $400 million to FIFA, for broadcasting rights, just 21 days before FIFA announced that Qatar will hold the 2022 World Cup. The contract also documented a secret TV deal between FIFA and Qatar's state run media broadcast Al Jazeera that $100 million will also be paid into a designated FIFA account only if Qatar wins the World Cup ballot in 2010. An additional $480 million was also offered by the State of Qatar government, three years after the initial offer, which brings the amount to $880 million offered by Qatar to host the 2022 world cup. The documents are now part of the bribery inquiry by Swiss Police.[74][75] FIFA refused to comment on the inquiry and responded to The Sunday Times in an email and wrote "allegations linked to the FIFA World Cup 2022 bid have already been extensively commented by FIFA, who in June 2017 published the Garcia report in full on Fifa.com. Furthermore, please note that Fifa lodged a criminal complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, which is still pending. FIFA is and will continue to cooperate with the authorities."[73][74] A beIN spokesman said in a statement that the company would not "respond to unsubstantiated or wildly speculative allegations."[76]

Damian Collins, a British Member of Parliament (MP) and chairman of a UK parliamentary committee, called for payments from Al Jazeera to be frozen and launched an investigation into the apparent contract since the contract "appears to be in clear breach of the rules".[73]

Former UEFA president Michel Platini was arrested by French police on 18 June 2019 in relation to the rewarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He was detained at the Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police outside Paris. The arrest represents the first substantial public move in an investigation into the Qatar decision opened two years ago by France’s Parquet National Financier, which is responsible for law enforcement against serious financial crime.[77][78]

Support of terrorism by Qatar[edit]

In reaction to the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis over the support of terrorism by the Qatari Government, the president of the German Football Association, Reinhard Grindel stated in June 2017, that "the football associations of the world should conclude that major tournaments cannot be held in countries which actively support terrorism", and that the German Football Association will talk with UEFA and the German Government in order to evaluate whether to boycott the tournament in Qatar in 2022.[79]

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