Expanding 2022 World Cup to other Gulf countries carries human & labour rights risks, warn rights groups

In 2010 the news that Qatar had succeeded in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup was greeted with dismay by human rights NGOs and activists, concerned over the country’s poor record on labour rights and civic freedoms. Concerning reports of poor working conditions on World Cup construction sites, including lax health and safety, delayed wages, recruitment fees and cramped living conditions for the migrant workforce, have since become commonplace.

In March 2019 it was announced that FIFA was considering expanding the 32 team tournament to 48 teams. This would have required Qatar to share its hosting duties with a neighbouring country in the Gulf, prompting condemnation from human rights NGOs who pointed to the risks of co-hosting the World Cup in countries with similar or worse human rights records.

A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International, HRW, ITUC and Transparency International published an open letter urging FIFA to consider its position, particularly in light of FIFA’s Human Rights Policy and the criteria used to consider the co-hosting bids for the 2026 World Cup.

FIFA announced in May 2019 it would not expand the tournament.

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28 May 2019

FIFA Expansion Plan for 2022 World Cup Halted

Author: Minky Worden, HRW

FIFA has avoided reputational disaster by scrapping plans to expand the 2022 Qatar World Cup to neighboring human rights abusers Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, or Kuwait... Allowing neighboring countries with similar – or worse – records to share hosting rights so late in the game would have indicated FIFA’s stated commitments to delivering a rights-respecting World Cup are no more than empty words... Under pressure from activists, fans, and sponsors, FIFA has amended its statutes, setting up a Human Rights Advisory Board and adopting a landmark Human Rights Policy... The human rights community stood united in telling FIFA that expanding the World Cup in a hasty process that did not address current abuses would reward human rights abusers and set back the reform process under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The World Cup is the globe’s most watched sporting event. Future hosting arrangements should always address human rights as a key part of any game plan.

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17 May 2019

Saudi Arabia’s repression shouldn’t be rewarded with a World Cup

Author: Minky Worden (HRW), Washington Post

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When FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar, there was an outcry over that country’s human rights record. Now, soccer’s governing body is considering expanding the World Cup to a country with an even more alarming human rights record: Saudi Arabia...

FIFA’s consideration of Saudi Arabia stands in stark contrast to the organization’s claims that human rights are a key part of its values and the rules of the game. Under pressure from fans, activists and sponsors, FIFA has incorporated human rights since 2016 [it has adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, enshrined its responsibility to respect human rights in Article 3 of the FIFA Statutues, set up an indpendent Human Rights Advisory Board, employed human rights stadd, implemented a complaints mechanism for human rights defenders, and adopted a human rights policy].

These are global standards that Saudi Arabia has shown no interest in meeting.

Today a Saudi-led coalition is waging a brutal war in Yemen…In April, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi nationals, mostly minority Shiite Muslims, who may not have had fair trials…Same-sex relations are criminalized in Saudi Arabia, and punishments include the death penalty and whipping…The country has no press freedom…Last October, Saudi agents murdered and dismembered Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the Saudi government…Saudi Arabia enforces a repressive “male guardianship” system…have jailed many of the country’s leading women’s rights activists, some of whom were reportedly tortured...

FIFA needs to consult with domestic and international human rights stakeholders... [Qatari] human rights groups have spent years working to improve conditions... Neither of these measures can be replicated in Saudi Arabia, with major human rights activists in prison or silenced by threats...

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates also remain under consideration. Those countries, too, have alarming human rights records... It’s unclear how any of them could meet FIFA’s human rights standards in just over three years.

FIFA’s corporate partners — including Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa — should be alarmed that FIFA is even considering expanding the contest at such a late stage to these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia... it would damage FIFA’s human rights policies and reward Saudi Arabia’s escalating repression. It deserves a red card.

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Company response
13 March 2019

FIFA response re: human rights risks of 2022 World Cup expansion

Author: FIFA

FIFA's stance and commitment to Human Rights are unequivocal and integrated in the hosting requirements of all our future tournaments in accordance with our Human Rights Policy. As the feasibility study that will be presented to the FIFA Council on Friday confirms, this would not be different in the case of a potential co-host already in 2022.

12 March 2019

As FIFA eyes World Cup expansion, rights groups say workers at risk

Author: Eric Knecht, Reuters

FIFA’s drive to expand World Cup 2022 and stage it beyond Qatar risks including host countries that do not meet the soccer governing body’s own standards on rights and labour, campaign groups said on Tuesday...“There are clear human rights risks associated with adding new hosts for the 2022 World Cup,” said Stephen Cockburn, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International. “Not least the potential widespread exploitation of migrant workers providing construction and other services for the World Cup that could cast a major shadow over the world’s biggest sporting event,” he said.

A FIFA spokesperson said its commitment to human rights are “unequivocal” and written into the hosting requirements of all future tournaments. The FIFA spokesperson said the feasibility study being presented on Friday confirmed that these standards would apply to any co-hosting country.

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12 March 2019

FIFA must put human rights at heart of World Cup expansion talks

Author: Amnesty International

Amnesty International and a coalition of NGOs, trade unions, fans and players groups have called on FIFA President Gianni Infantino to confirm that any country considered as a potential co-host of the 2022 World Cup must comply with the organization’s new human rights standards. On Thursday FIFA members will meet to discuss a proposal to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams, with suggestions that additional matches could be played in other Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or UAE...The NGOs are calling on FIFA to confirm that any country putting itself forward will be assessed for human rights risks, and be expected to provide credible plans to prevent labour rights abuse, discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in connection to the tournament.

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12 March 2019

Open letter to FIFA on human rights and the potential expansion of the 2022 World Cup

Author: Amnesty International, Football Supporters Europe(FSE), Gulf Centre for Human Rights(GCHR), Human Rights Watch, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Transparency International, UNI Global Union, World Players Association

This is an open letter to FIFA from a global group of non-governmental organisations, trade unions, players’ unions and fans groups working to defend and promote human rights and transparency in sport, in relation to the forthcoming FIFA Council Meeting on 14-15 March where proposals to expand the 2022 World Cup will be discussed.

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