Does it matter if football is associated with the slave trade?

If you were unemployed and without financial resources are there any jobs you would turn down?

It is quite a telling question in my view, because it gets to the heart of everyday morality.

It’s also a question that causes me to ponder – because I know there are two answers I would give.  If the question had arisen when I responsible for feeding and housing my family, then the line would have been stretched much further.  There were still things I would never have done even to feed my daughters, but that line is different from the line I would draw now that I don’t have those responsibilities.

So these days I take a higher stand, because if I turned down work the only person who would suffer would be me.

But supposing I was even more removed – supposing I worked for the FA, or supposing I was a mega rich footballer where any impact on me if I turned an opportunity down on moral grounds, would be small.  What then?

Would I engage in anything to do with Fifa or Qatar?  I’d like to think not.

Such thoughts crossed my mind when Fifa announced that that there was nothing it could do about the slave labour conditions that exist in Qatar – and there is no way Fifa will turn back from running its infamous World Cup in Qatar.

The Guardian, doing its political investigating (which is infinitely superior to what passes for a lot of its football reporting) revealed last year, that  Qatar is a state based on slavery where numerous workers have died and been maimed in appalling conditions while or after working on the building sites in the country.

Theo Zwanzinger, Germany’s member of the Fifa’s executive has said that that human rights issues should be part of the decision making of Fifa and Uefa.  But not yet.   He added “This feudal system existed before the World Cup.  What do you expect of a football organisation? Fifa is not the lawmaker in Qatar.”

The answer is simple – Fifa should not have awarded and should not award any tournament to any country that is feudal and/or is based on slavery.  If it had made this clear to Qatar it might have stopped the all powerful Investment Authority in its tracks.  Having done so, it should apologise to the world, and remove the contract.

Likewise, had I been a supporter of PSG I like to think I would have walked away when they were taken over by Qatar.  I like to think that if Arsenal were funded by Qatar (which is different from the Emirates, who in any case don’t fund the club in the way Qatar funds PSG) I would simply walk away.

Likewise I am not a Barclays customer,  but if I were, I’d close my accounts and move elsewhere (Qatar Investment owns nearly 13% of Barclays Bank).   I don’t have a VW but if I did I would sell it (Qatar owns 17% of VW).

And before you ask, I don’t shop at Sainsbury’s and I don’t watch Al Jazeera Sports..

It was, you may recall Qatar that held Zahir Belounis in the country for two years because he had a dispute with his Quatari team.  He had no salary during that time, and was unable to leave the country.  He was the victim of the kafala system in which the employer has ownership of employees.   It is a system that English learn about in school, and which was part of our society during the Middle Ages.  It is feudalism.

So I take my moral stance, which given that I am not involved and won’t be involved in anything to do with the world cup, means nothing at all.  But still it is worth point out that the German member of Fifa quoted above said, “Pressure and threats won’t achieve much … We have a duty. The decision has been taken to grant the World Cup to Qatar, whether I like it or not.”

Which is rubbish – because pressure is all we have.  By running the world cup in Qatar, by supporting any venture Qatar is engaged in, we given credence to their policy of enslavement.  If the FA pulled out, it would shake the football world and embarrass a lot of other countries who would see that at least one football body will stand up against slavery.

Fifa says he can’t back out now.  But the FA could – even if it means standing on its own, and never entering the world cup again.  People would say, “should we deprive our footballers of the chance to play in Qatar?” and I would say, no – they can make up their own minds.  Nationalities can be bought and sold these days, so they can go and play for other nations.

People would say, “should we deprive English fans the right to watch the world cup?”  The answer is no – it should be a private decision.  You could watch it on Al Jaz.

In the end, for me, morality still counts for something, and when the slave trade is an issue, morality counts for a lot.


41 Replies to “Does it matter if football is associated with the slave trade?”

  1. Yes. Simple answer to your question.
    But morality is an individual thing, and sadly money has replaced the “whip”. Money is the driving force of this world, and like everything else can be used for good, or for bad.
    Concerning banks, it really does not matter which bank one has, they all are highly connected and depend(answer to) on the World Bank/IMF, no matter what name or who owns them.
    Fifa and the FA are also dependent on money and look where money comes from, so individual morality is not going to make any difference, unless by some quirk of fate, the whole of Fifa and FA happens to be moralistic individuals, and even then, as you state, the moralistic individual will mostly choose not to lose their job and be able to look after their family.
    So in the end, it does come down to the individuals with high moral standards, who removes themselves from it all. Sadly this is just a drop of water on a very hot stone, as we witness the World Cup (and many other things) continuing on regardless.
    This reminds me of my naiveity(in my youth) when i sent a 20 page document to the UK government with some of my ideas on how to make this country greater than it was and really serve the people. Did i get a reply or acknowledgement?
    Well, i leave that to your imagination.

  2. I will try to make my tirade very non-impassioned.

    The Qatari ruling family, set up by Western powers exiting the Arabic peninsula along with many other despicable absolute monarchies, has tons of money because of its natural gas, with income per capita that is in the top three year in year out, with first place ahead of Switzerland on more than one end of year list.
    Unlike the Saudis (who invest selectively based on the wishes of a huge and complicated ruling family), the Qataris have invested in public/private infrastructure (my humble opinion is that there is no difference between the two, as the rulers somehow own both), and they have been left with tons of additional money. The kind of extra money a Wall Street yuppie would buy illegal drugs with; in other words, money to fund the worse in them.

    Here is where this “discretionary” spending has gone:
    -Bribes to get the FIFA World Cup awarded to your ruling class.
    -Buying PSG and killing Ligue 1 (Monaco has not gotten a chance) and I want to add that Arsene Wenger would never go to PSG, despite their deluded thinking that he may be interested.
    -Sponsoring the shirt of Barcelona, as the once proud club that turned down commercializing their shirt succumbed to big money.
    -Funding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and beyond, with the appearance of AKP-style acceptability (not that the AKP has ever been acceptable, we know now how Erdogan is very corrupt), but with all the vigor of fundamentalism and intolerance, masked by a huge “have a nice day” smiling face sticker.
    -Funding a most reprehensible terrorist insurgency in Syria, by giving billions to arm and train foreign jihadists, with many civilians killed or maimed, and with the old traditional civil society in Syria, once famous for its own style of tolerance and multi-religious cohabitation, being in complete tatters.

    Yet, all of this has occurred under the watch of Western media, watchdogs, and institutions, including FIFA, several European top leagues, and I will not mention the many Western political powers and institutions complicit with the gas-producing rulers.

    This is not the decline of Western civilization, this is just elected officials in football and politics cashing their very fat checks and giving them ridiculous alibi after preposterous alibi on how they are allowed to buy shiny things and unethical journos, but also sadly poor workers.

    But, hey, as some French singer once claimed:
    “L’argent, l’argent, tout s’achete et tout se vend”

  3. What if you live in a part of the world where you have no choice but to watch your beloved Gunners on Al Jaz?! 🙁

  4. @Ray: Well put.

    Qatar was a bankrupt state not many years ago, till they started getting gas… And now they have sporting/economical/political ambitions, like funding a rebellion against another dictator in Syria. They have to stuff all that money somewhere!

  5. ….and this time shall pass… After the World Cup in Qatar, I pity the fate of Man City and P.S.G.

  6. Of course it matters. But football is associated with so many more too:
    Anti-Wengerism; and

  7. The problem with boycotts are that it is hard to know who (if anyone) is ethical these days. I boycotted SA goods until the fall of apartheid, and I continue to boycott Israeli goods while they persecute the Palestinian people. I bank with the Co-op because they claim to be ethical. I buy free range eggs and am generally quite careful about what meat I buy. But its a minefield. Should I shop in Tescos or Sainsbury’s? The former were involved in Workfare the latter tainted by association with Qatar. Shoudl I eat meat at all? OR dairy products for that matter (as they support the meat industry). Should I only buy goods made in Britain or the EU as imported goods affects local employment and airfreight is damaging the planet. Should I even drive a car? I could go on (and on)
    FIFA is not an ethical organization but then neither is the British government and I pay them far more every year in taxes than I spend on anything else, so yes – I will probably watch the World Cup, and cheer for whichever team has Arsenal players in it as I usually do

  8. blacksheep63,

    My position on this matter align with yours very closely.

    In our globalised world, it is impossible to live a life that is untainted by unfairness. All the corporations are in incestuous relationships with each other. All we can do is in ways that clear our conscience.

  9. It’ll be funny to watch Jose’ come up with excuses for his loss with his little pony!

    Pathetic egocentric A-hole.

  10. Nice article
    But just for more information let me say that Emirates are no different from Qatar according to slavery, they made all those high towers and buildings on the hot sand by using poor Indian and Pakistani people who have no passport and identity
    It’s a part of Arabic tradition which is also moralised by religion

  11. ‘It’ll be funny to watch Jose’ come up with excuses for his loss with his little pony!’

    Now, just imagine Mourinho trotting out excuses for 9 years…
    Would still be funny to watch ???

  12. I think the most disgraceful thing FIFA did was to award this year’s world cup to a country full of trolls like sperez.

  13. @Persian Gunner,

    Interpretation of religious texts is a sham. All you need is pay clerics to say what the ruling class wants, and you have a solid grip on wealth distribution without meaningful challenge.

    As to the nepotistic rulers in Syria, they had no choice but to start spreading the wealth, but they may have started too late; the conflict was inflicted on the Syrian people by outsiders who wanted to destroy the well known multi-religious tolerant society in Syria. The Qataris, Saudis, and other Gulf powers could not tolerate a minority sect of Muslim heretic Shi’a to be in power in Syria; it has nothing to do with “democracy” as the jihadis and other zealots paid by Gulf powers plan to cleanse Syria of its minorities, about 30% to 40% of the population. I grew up in a secular household but I happen to be born Christian; nonetheless, my friends in the private school I attended were Muslim, Christian, and a few Jews as my generation was the last one to have Jewish classmates. When you mention this to a zealot paid, trained, and armed by the Qataris and the Saudis, they say “that is haram, kill them all”

    PS: Now that I think of it, London is where the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” is located. Here are their reporting rules for Syria:
    -Sniper paid by Saudis kills civilian paid by Qataris (the rate for protesters early on during the conflict was several thousand Syrian pounds per person showing up): accuse Syrian President and alert the UNSC and NATO; demand bombings, even if thousands are killed.
    -Jihadis kill Christian priests, rape nuns, and abduct Bishops (real ones, not the ones in a game of chess): Accuse Syrian President of having created the conditions for this to happen.
    Of course, I am (slightly) exaggerating, but this so-called Observatory is a mouthpiece for the most malevolent Muslim Brotherhood. Their definition of what Human Rights are is based on a very well funded but extremely sectarian point of view. And Western media never question them.

  14. @Persian Gooner,
    I want to add the Nepalese to the Indians and the Pakistanis. There are smaller proportions of Indonesians, Filipinos, and others.

  15. On a more serious note I think the 2022 world cup should not have gone to a country like Qatar. They may not be an ethical organisation, but FIFA have a duty to not be seen to be associating themselves with people conducting their business in a way that can be deemed to be racial, promoting slavery, etc. South Africa was isolated from the rest of the sporting world while they were practising apartheid, and rightly so, I think slavery is worse. Why should Qatar be rewarded with the world cup?

  16. I find it difficult to say anything about our world today that is without blemish.
    An improvement in the standard of living for many, resulted from the peace which followed the end of WW2. In turn the yearning for the more material things of life became inevitable.
    Big business flourished world-wide and in turn its financial muscle developed into a powerful weapon to be used in a myriad of ways.
    Investment in sporting institutions was welcomed by both sides. The finance providers wanted power and control of their money. The sport needed to enlarge, be more professional and improve its facilities.
    The result today is that in nearly every sport throughout the globe, big business has prevailed in such a way that the original concept has now been lost….probably for ever. No longer is (say) professional football purely a sporting contest between two teams.
    From FIFA down to the many governing bodies of individual nations, great power and influence is wielded in many walks of life and with it comes an ancillary evil. Power corrupts and total power corrupts absolutely.
    Football being such a world-wide sport, it remains to be seen whether a new whiter than white FIFA can ever be re-born as a power for good in our world.
    It will first need a formidable cleansing agent from among the sporting nations forming the Federation who can be trusted and we can only hope that action by men of courage will eventually emerge.

  17. Great post Ray!

    There are millions of better things they could stuff the money in. Bill Gates, anyone? But no, all for their Muslim brothers, no regard for the rest of humanity. Can’t wait for the day their oil duct dries out.

  18. Off topic, but still quite relevant to the article, as it all ties in in many ways. I have been trying to get to the bottom of the hate thrown at Arsenal for some time now, but do not expect me to write it all here, as i have a family to keep protected, so just some tips to get those started who are interested.
    Arsenal is constantly under threat. Why? Those who want to own everything, want to control Arsenal, but because of the way Arsenal is set up, it is becoming difficult, but they will not give up. Look at the similarities between Kroenke and Wenger, both silent, withdrawn from the usual “high life”, and very private persons, like a match made in heaven. They are going against the usual way that is expected for them to behave, forging their own way in this world, luckily they have that which helps to protect them from direct threats on their life, at least for now.
    Sidenote: Research Bayern Munich and their riches, and why they are in a resurgence of power in the footballing world.
    Most of you know this already:
    The ownership of Arsenal Football Club is considerably different from that of other clubs in English football. It is owned by a parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, which has relatively few shares which are infrequently traded.

    Arsenal’s parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, operates as a non-quoted public limited company, whose ownership is considerably different from that of other football clubs. Only 62,217 shares in Arsenal have been issued,[3] and they are not traded on a public exchange such as the FTSE or AIM; instead, they are traded relatively infrequently on PLUS (AFC), a specialist market. The 2011 takeover bid by Stan Kroenke puts the club’s market capitalisation value at £731m. At 31 March 2012, a single share in Arsenal had a mid price of £16,250, which set the club’s market capitalisation value at approximately £1000m.

    Arsenal Holdings plc wholly owns twelve subsidiary companies, covering the group’s activities. These include Arsenal Football Club plc (the football club itself), Arsenal (Emirates Stadium) Limited (which develops and owns Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium), Arsenal Stadium Management Company (which manages the stadium on matchdays), and Arsenal Overseas Ltd (which manages retail operations). Other subsidiaries deal with property development on the site of Arsenal’s former stadium at Highbury and the associated property holding and financing.
    This is a threat to those who want to control everything as Arsenal is not “following the program”, and there will be many attacks on Arsenal in order to wreck this, as getting at Kroenke is pretty difficult, he is powerful and rich and it is not an easy task to fight him. Hence the continuing attacks also on Wenger and Arsenal.
    There is not enough time to tell all, but this is enough to get those of you started who are interested.
    Like i say, there is much going on, and facts can be found documented all over, it just needs a good grasp of real history and an analytical mind.
    When the attacks on Arsenal stop, you will know that we have lost the battle.

  19. @Florian

    The rulers of Qatar and the Emirates (and Saudi Arabia) are not interested in the welfare of ordinary Muslims – or ordinary anybody, for that matter. They are only interested in their own wealth and power, which is why they get on so well with those in Britain and America who are also only interested in their own wealth and power.

  20. FIFA are a disgrace. The sooner countries break away the better, I hope England are not at this tainted tournament.
    Slightly off topic, and nobody could equate ravel with a slave, but saw this interesting article in the guardian
    More proof of corruption and coercion in the EPL. I have heard many similar things about big Sam and other more high profile managers in this league having very very comfortable relations with certain agents.

  21. @Para: That is most disconcerting but extremely believable. Thank you for taking the time out to write that out. I personally do not have a good grasp of business mathematics at all. Is there something I can still read and understand more about all this?

  22. I would rather the blog stay to its root and remain Untold Arsenal , instead of Untold everything that is wrong with Football. Ref reviews and blogs on bias against arsenal provides an insight in to why we are where we are as AFC, but blogs on wider reaching topics like racism,slavery etc deviates from the title of the blog.

  23. Ray
    You are right, Syria is burned down to the ground, their condition is so poor that some under controled and vanished diseases like Polio are starting to infect people again
    The hardest part of living in Middle East is that you find yourself living in others play ground, and as you said nobody give a damn about human rights, it is just the game of thrones
    And all those jihadis are so powerfull now that United States felt the danger and tried to support this little pony of democracy in Iran to bring some fresh Islamic ideas to the region, as they themselves destroyed this balance during all these years by supporting zealot regim of saudi’s

  24. Is this the Sperez that was advocating that we should all refuse to buy season tickets in protest at Wenger’s continued tenure?

  25. As a PS, this appeared in the Guardian on the day after my article

    Qatar’s state-owned Paris Saint-Germain – standing up for financial fair play by joining legal action against Monaco’s tax-exempt status. PSG say they and six other clubs are acting over the “failure to respect basic principles”, in a bid for “sporting fairness”.

  26. Him -on his knees by the bedside about to say his nightly prayers .
    She ( in bed) :” What are you praying for ?”
    Him :” Guidance .”
    She : ” Pray for stiffness , I’ll guide it myself!”


    Message on a leaflet:

  28. The Mugsmashers needed a penalty to score, like we did in the Premier League game 8 days ago.
    The Ox and Fabianski were outstanding.
    Gerrard lucky not to get a second yellow.

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