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Money or Morals? World Cup 2022

Ever since the awarding of the FIFA 2022 World Cup went to Middle Eastern country Qatar, a number of concerns have been raised both in terms of the suitability of Qatar as a host nation, as well as the fairness of the bidding process. Recent stories of Nepalese workers who have been denied leave to attend the funerals of relatives killed in the recent earthquake, coupled with allegations of inhumane conditions and regular deaths of those involved in construction have made Qatar 2022 possibly the most controversial World Cup in history. This, added to the very recent news that Swiss police have arrested six FIFA executives over allegations of accepting bribes of more than £65million begs the question as to whether football has lost its morals, no longer the working man’s sport, but a sport fuelled by greed and corruption from the top down. The decision to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been criticised on a number of occasions and for a number of reasons ranging from the climate to alleged human rights and corruption issues. The FIFA World Cup normally occurs during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, but with Qatar reaching temperatures exceeding 50 degrees during this period, the safety of the athletes as well as the general practicalities of hosting have been called into question. Two doctors from a sports hospital in Qatar have been quoted as stating that the heat would be an issue and “affect performance levels from a health point of view”, as well as the inspection team for evaluating potential hosts calling Qatar “high risk” due to the extreme heat. This criticism was initially rejected by Sepp Blatter but then in September 2013, he acknowledged that the FIFA committee would evaluate the feasibility of a winter event. This in itself has caused problems due to the fact that a January-February tournament would interfere with the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, and holding the competition in November-Decemeber would interefe with the christmas period. Even FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger has said that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a “blatant mistake”. In addition to the practicalities of heat being a criticism in the choice of World Cup venue, other practicalities such as the costs have also been criticised with, by some estimates, the World Cup costing Qatar approximately £138billion, 60x the amount South Africa spent on the 2010 World Cup. Adding to this, many question the strength of the football culture in Qatar as at the time of being awarded the bid, Qatar ranked 113th in the world and had never qualified for a World Cup. This coupled with the fact that Qatar is the smallest country ever to host the World Cup and is governed by Sharia Law meaning public drinking of alcohol is forbidden has many questioning the grounds on which Qatar was selected, leading to suspicions of dodgy dealings and bribery. These suspicions have been further enhanced with the Sunday Times claiming in June 2014 that they had obtained documents that proved Mohammed Bin Hammam, President of the Asian Football Confederation had paid more than $5million to football officials to secure the Qatar bid. Before this in March 2014, the FBI were said to be investigating a firm linked to Qatar’s successful bid who paid the then Vice-President of FIFA Jack Warner $2million. Only today, six FIFA executives were arrested by Swiss police over allegations of accepting bribes totalling more than £65million with these charges including bribes over the World Cup bids. All these points add up and do beg the question as to the legitimacy of Qatar as the choice for the World Cup 2022 host nation. Finally, and most controversially, the Qatar 2022 World Cup has been criticised for its apparent lack of human rights in respect to the construction workers hired for the facility. Human Rights Watch and The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has criticised the `kafala` system of work used in Qatar whereby employers can prevent workers from changing jobs or leaving the country, leading workers to become “basically slaves” according to Sharan Burrows from the ITUC. Amnesty International has also reported “serious exploitation” for workers in Qatar and cites instances of workers having to sign false statements saying they had received their wages in order to regain their passports. Activists are pressuring corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola, VISA and McDonalds to change the working conditions and estimates report over 1000 workers have already died constructing the stadium for the 2022 World Cup. Fair Play Qatar, and organisation set up to improve the working conditions quote that “more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament” and that the death toll will be 4000 by the time the World Cup starts if nothing is done to stop conditions as they are. The choice to hold the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been filled with controversies from the word go and with news coming in today that six FIFA executives have been arrested for allegations of bribery and corruption, the whole legitimacy of the bid is thrown into question. Add pressure from activists to improve the human rights conditions for the workers building the stadium and worries over the heat for the athletes and it will be interesting to see future developments in respect to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. As the main World Cup governing body, FIFA has a responsibility to ensure human rights are being adhered to and that safety of the worker, player and spectator is top of the priorities list, yet so far it seems that money is being favoured over morals if the allegations are true, leading to the conclusion that premiership football is no longer the working man’s sport, but rather fuelled by greed and manipulated by wealth.

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