Key FIFA sponsors have publicly voiced concerns that the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar, are not living up to their pledge to improve working conditions for its slaves.
“It seems FIFA may have been misled about Qatar’s historical record on slave-rights while soliciting bribes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids,” Adidas said in a statement. It should be noted that a review completed by FIFA found that violations by FIFA were of limited scope and did not necessitate re-opening the bid.
“If things in Qatar do not improve within the next several years, Adidas may severely reconsider using such a popular sport to achieve brand name recognition,” the statement expanded.
The decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been criticised almost since day one, as the future host, which has the highest GDP per capita of any country, for its “sponsorship” laws, which allow for immigrants to be subjected to forced labour. This should not be confused with FIFA’s sponsorship laws, which carry heavy penalties for athletes that show the names of companies that aren’t sponsors on their underwear.
Workers from Sri Lanka, India and Nepal are lured to Qatar with promises of low, but acceptable, weekly wages. Upon arrival however, the companies confiscate their passports and often refuse to pay.
Because migrant workers are on a sponsorship system, employees cannot look for other employment or even leave the country without their employer’s permission. Why these workers don’t ask the people that tricked them into slavery for permission to find work elsewhere remains unclear.
As a result of conditions in Qatar, more than 4000 migrant workers are predicted to die by the time of the World Cup, or about 62 per game. This is well above the acceptable number of deaths for some of the World Cup’s sponsors.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Visa stated: “While most decent people are willing to accept a certain amount of deaths so they can watch millionaires kick a ball around, we are beginning to think the deaths are at undesirable levels.
“Our marketing research indicates that more than 50-55 deaths per game and spectators tend to switch to rugby, which our rivals Mastercard sponsor.”
Similarly, soft drink manufacturer Coca-Cola has found the treatment of migrant workers in violation of its core values of “real taste” and “uplifting refreshment”.
“Coca-Cola does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world,” the company, which achieved 95% market share in South Africa as a result of its exploitation of apartheid, said in a statement.
With increased pressure from sponsors, FIFA’s complicity in human rights violations could cease if fans were willing to boycott the sport until the international governing body of association football enacted a stricter human rights policy and withdrew from Qatar.
In other football news, the road to the 2018 world cup is already stoking major excitement, despite still being three years away. Many within the industry are expecting the tournament to exceed previous viewership records.
Matthew Farthing is the sports reporter for the (un)Australian. At a recent Western Sydney Wanderers home game, he witnessed several human rights violations, including forcing fans to listen to Exit Row.