The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is on its way, but not without a slew of controversy. In 2010, Qatar was “awarded” the winning bid to host the event. At the time, there were reports that FIFA officials were bribed to award the bid to Qatar, but ultimately a two-year investigation into this could not prove any bribery. However, this was heavily questioned at the time, and not many people believed the results of the investigation, which seemed to do nothing to clear any suspicions of bribery. To this point, it is no secret that Qatar bribed its way to hosting the 2022 World Cup, as there have been many bans, people stepping away from FIFA, and legal cases. This operation to get the World Cup to Qatar was led primarily by former FIFA executive, Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Regardless of the legitimacy of the process that got Qatar the winning bid, they won and had to prepare. Qatar built 7 brand new state of the art stadiums to host the World Cup in, but this massive construction effort did not come without a price. In 2021, it was reported that over 6,500 South Asian migrant workers (a conservative estimate) died since the construction of these stadiums began. While these deaths were not able to be directly attributed to the stadiums, a Qatar official, Hassan Al-Thawadi, recently said that he believes 400-500 migrant workers died from construction related to the World Cup. However, Al-Thawadi tried to minimize this statement, saying only 3 of the deaths were directly connected to stadium construction, and 37 were from “other reasons” The rest of the deaths he said are from wider efforts to get Qatar ready for the World Cup. This number, while still being very high, is quite a big difference from the other estimates of over 6,500 deaths, which Al-Thawadi disputed previously as being a “sensational headline”.
In addition to these issues, Qatar has also been dishonest in how it has dealt with advertisers – especially in regard to alcohol sales. Qatar had said leading up to the World Cup that there would be alcohol sold at the World Cup, and there would even be designated zones for fans to sober up who had had too much to drink. If you accepted this promise from Qatar on its face, it seemed great and everyone was very excited about it, especially FIFA’s alcohol sponsors. This was all set until two days before the World Cup started, when FIFA announced that a decision had been made after discussion with Qatar to ban alcohol (outside of luxury suites) to ensure “the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.” The writing was on the wall, as Qatar’s allowance got narrower and narrower as the tournament got closer. When Qatar won the bid in 2010, there were no restrictions on alcohol. In September, Qatar agreed to sell beer inside the stadium, but not at the concession stands. Next, a couple weeks before the tournament, the alcohol stands were moved to a desolate area in the stadium, and then finally the decision to ultimately ban it was made two days before the tournament began.
While this is not great for fans, the biggest loser here is Budweiser, as they are a major sponsor of FIFA. Budweiser paid tens of millions of dollars only to have alcohol banned on the largest stage of its sponsorship – clearly not what they signed up for when they agreed to a deal with FIFA. While Budweiser was prepared to sell beer at the games, they obviously now had a surplus of beer, which they said they will ship to the winning country.
Other Human Rights Issues
In addition to these World Cup-specific issues, fans still need to be aware of Qatar’s strict cultural considerations and laws when it comes to sex, LGBTQ+ rights, religious practice, dress, and public expression. These issues alone deserve their own blog post, just to demonstrate how restricted visitor’s rights are in Qatar in comparison to their home countries. The U.S. Embassy issued a fact sheet to Americans about everything they need to be mindful of to avoid having trouble in Qatar.
While the World Cup has put on display for the world the human rights issues that happen in Qatar, the tournament has faced a ton of backslash from the public, but the organizers really have not faced much backlash from sponsors. Budweiser is still selling their non-alcoholic beer there. Other sponsors such as Adidas, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and many more have made no changes. According to FIFA, “The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be backed by a full quota of Partners, Sponsors and Regional Supporters after FIFA sold out all sponsorship tiers and inventory for the football extravaganza.”
This World Cup is unlike any other, and it is a great chance for the rest of the world to see the corruption and the injustice that happens in other countries. While there has been little change from FIFA and FIFA sponsors, the conversation has to start somewhere, and the public backlash is a great start.
Feature Photo: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/11/01/world/00qatar-worldcup-1/00qatar-worldcup-1-videoSixteenByNine3000.jpg
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