By Sir Hardly Anyone
There is a huge amount of evidence emerging from Qatar the things have gone terribly wrong in the organisation of the world cup. And that it has gone wrong is, it seems down to two fundamental causes.
First, there was not and still isn’t anyone on the ground who was capable of organising an event of this magnitude.
Second, when something went wrong, as it inevitably did, the prime concern was only to save face. Any admission that, for example, workers were not being paid, would be contrary to the Qatari way, and so there was no way out save to hide the whole problem, rather than solve it.
Third, there is no sense of human rights anywhere within Fifa or the Qatari organising committee.
Fourth, most of the media of Europe, most certainly including the English media, want their press passes to the world cup events, and it is clear that if any of them don’t follow the Qatari line that everything is in order and there a no human rights abuses anywhere, then a warm welcome will be denied.
There are multiple horror stories coming out of Qatar, including, for example, the story that Abdullah Ibhais was sentenced to five years in prison for defending migrant workers in Qatar, with this action being orchestrated by his ex-employer, The Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy, the organisation responsible for the 2022 World Cup
The story of Abdullah Ibhais is one that shows beyond any doubt that the World Cup Organising Committee is willing to take the severest action against anyone who threatens the good name of the the Committee.
The final proof that image is everything and human rights nothing came from a WhatsApp group from within the ranks of Qatar’s 2019 World Cup organizing committee, obtained by the Sports Show website (publishing in German) and Norwegian soccer magazine “Josimar,” (who we’ve mentioned before because of their excellent work at getting behind the headlines and giving us the real football news).
They show that the work of the World Cup chief of organisational matters, Hassan Al-Thawadi has been the prevention of the reporting of the exploitative working conditions at World Cup construction sites.
And in this regard Al-Thawadi can be incredibly satisfied with his work, because the English media has been totally silent on the issue, anxious to show that their journalists deserve their press passes to allow them in to Qatar for the world cup finals. Those who report what is really going on are simply not going to be let in.
And since UK journalists love a free ride as much as the next journalists, our media has been complicit and compliant.
Al-Thawadi has been saying that the recent mass demonstrations and strikes had nothing to do with the 2022 World Cup. We know nothing of this in the UK because it is not reported – meaning once again that England’s place in the finals, and our media staff, are safe.
But the reality that comes out in the media elsewhere is that hundreds of construction workers working on World Cup construction sites had not been paid for months.
No one seems to deny that around 5000 migrant workers have been on strike because of non-payment of salaries. The response of Qatar’s World Cup organisers has been that its role has been to protect the country’s reputation, no matter what. It really is reputation first, human rights last – and publicity – never.
Indeed there is a post from World Cup boss Hassan Al Thawadi in response to the protests by workers over non-payment, “We need to get our social media people to clarify that it’s not 2022 related.”
Thus the work of the world cup group is not to resolve the appalling and disgraceful conditions of the workforce of the world cup, nor the failure to pay salaries, but to handle the media message that World Cup workers were not on strike and that everything is fine. And that undoubtedly is what anyone in England with thoughts about the world cup
For the English media have gone along with the Qatari official line and simply ignored the story. Undoubtedly seeing this the Saudi Arabian’s felt ever more inclined to proceed with their now completed bid for Newcastle. The message is clear – the English media can be bought off a story by the promise of world cup coverage next year.
Just how these people operate is fully explained in Josimar’s article which makes it clear that everything is Qatar is about spin, as with this quote “(…) they are saying they have no food on a daily basis, they do not have their IDs, they are not given any leave and those who ask for leave are kept for 4 months without payment before getting cancelled. They say when they did a strike 4 weeks ago, the police came and forced them to go to work without payment.”
“… we have met workers from the QF site (Education City stadium) and they say they have not been paid for four months and that Iskan was sacked from the site but no one has paid them, they are a total of 125 who worked at Qatar stadium. We met 12 of them but only two agreed to go on camera. We also met workers from Al Bayt and so far the only communication with them was from the police promising two months payment, but they said they have not received salaries for four months now.”
But even though the Qataris had the most fulsome co-operation of the English media in covering up this story because it didn’t fit with the narrative of football always being a good thing, the Supreme Committee’s director of digital media, Khalid Al Naama, stated,
“I believe regardless of whether or not Supreme Committee workers participated, the fact remains that we have workers that have not received June and July salaries. Any spin we try to put on the delay will risk the State reputation because it would be an admission from us that there is indeed an issue with payments – in fact so bad that we have to pay the workers directly and in cash – because the wage protection system and electronic records failed them.
“It makes us look really bad that all these reforms we’ve been talking about ‘accelerating as a result of the World Cup’ still cannot fix issues. The only response I see making things better is saying it’s been resolved. Nothing else we say will do anything except cause more damage.”
So that is how it has gone in Qatar. It is a total administrative disaster, but no one will admit anything is wrong, because to do so would be to lose face. So if workers are not paid, no one can admit this, because to do so would be to harm the integrity of the Qatar organising committee.
As a result And the British media have been utterly compliant in this process. What a surprise.
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