By Tony Attwood
Qatar was awarded the World cup in 2010. Evidence that has emerged since then suggests very strongly indeed that the award was rigged. One suggestion among many is that al-Jazeera (since then renamed beIN Sports) had signed a TV contract that included a $100m fee to be paid to Fifa if it won the bid.
Damian Collins, then chairman of the UK’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, demanded an investigation. The Sunday Times reported that it has seen a second secret TV rights document in which a further $480m was offered by Qatar after that.
The Swiss police are investigating and have recently removed their own most senior prosecutor after it was discovered he had held a number of secret, private meetings with Mr Infantino, the head of Fifa.
Sadly this is not making the news in the UK. But then nor is the use of slaves to build Qatar’s stadia.
Qatar’s migrant worker population has rapidly expanded, increasing the population of the state by over 60% and the abuse of these low paid, and increasingly not paid migrant workers, means they are working in what is effectively modern slavery. Documented examples of forced labour and human trafficking are rife.
In October 2013, the Guardian newspaper reported that 44 Nepali workers had died in Qatar in just a two-month period. Amnesty International reported large scale labour abuse in the construction of the new grounds.
In 2014 the UN Special Report on Migrant Rights also described how “exploitation is frequent and migrants often work without pay and live in substandard conditions,” – in short conditions akin to slavery, for if a worker is not paid, he cannot escape his employer, a prime factor in slavery.
In September 2018, Amnesty International published its findings of how one employer, Mercury MENA, had left many workers stranded and without any money.
Of course this is not called slavery in Qatar, it is called Kafala – a system of employment that links foreign workers exclusively to their employer, and removes all rights from them, including removing the right to change employer or leave the country. Again it is slavery.
Because of this control and the banning of trades unions, the employers often fail to pay wages, but still refuse the workers the right to leave.
In the light of protests against this situation, in November 2017 Qatar signed an agreement with the UN International Labour Organisation promising reform of the sponsorship system, access to justice, worker voice, health and safety, and pay and recruitment. The government also set up a temporary minimum wage, a disputes procedure, and two human rights treaties were ratified.
However there is virtually no enforcement of these new laws, and even where cases are brought before the courts, they can take months or even years to reach the court, which leaves the workers still not being paid, and effectively starving to death and unable to leave.
In August 2018 even Qatar’s World Cup committee agreed that one set of contractors were not abiding by the rules. Thus Fifa, and all countries that are expecting to play in the World Cup finals in Qatar, and all broadcasters expecting to cover the finals, have a responsibility to ensure there is no slavery in Qatar.
The current issue in the US and the UK over whether statues to past slavers should be removed, should also be raising the issue of a set of world cup venues that have been built on slavery.
It does not matter a jot that slavery might have been reduced in recent years in Qatar. It would not matter if it had been abolished (it hasn’t, but even if it had it wouldn’t matter). The fact is that the 2022 world cup venues have been built through slavery, and anyone going to the world cup, or being involved in it in any way, is thus supporting slavery.
It doesn’t matter how much players might take the knee and have “Black lives matter” or “All lives matter” slogans on their shirts instead of their names. The 2022 world cup has been built on slavery, and objecting to a past built on slavery is pointless, if nothing is done about the present based on slavery.
Every TV station, radio station, newspaper, equipment supplier and indeed any player who has anything to do with the 2022 world cup is supporting slavery. No matter how many times such a person protests otherwise.
Stopping the 2022 world cup by refusing to broadcast it or play in it, is the perfect opportunity to show that everyone’s life really does matter. Taking a stand on this, would say far far more about the value of the lives of the enslaved, that any statue toppling will ever do.
It will be interesting to see if any newspaper or broadcaster really is concerned about every life mattering, or whether their profit comes first.
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