With the 2022 World Cup fast approaching people will soon be filled with patriotism and ecstasy that only international football can provide. However, the consequences of Qatar hosting the World Cup cannot be overlooked.

Cheap Migrant Labour

Human rights violations have been committed as a result of the country’s preparations. Qatar has used 2 million migrant workers primarily from Africa and Asia. The jobs of these workers vary from building the stadium, transporting fans, providing security and serving in restaurants. The issue lies with how these workers have been treated for the past decade as Qatar prepared to host the first World Cup in the Middle East.

The list of violations is extensive. A primary cause for the mistreatment of workers boils down to the Kafala system. Kafala means sponsorship and it is a law that defines the relationship between a worker and their ’local sponsor.’ This system permits private companies and individuals to sponsor migrant workers. The sponsor covers travel and accommodation costs but the workers’ citizenship status is in the hands of the employer. The result is tantamount to slave labour. Workers are forced to work extremely long hours in extremely hot conditions for extraordinarily little pay. They are also unable to leave the country or change jobs without the sponsor’s permission. If a worker is caught leaving (regardless of whether they are fleeing abuse), they face deportation or imprisonment.

Experts rightly argue that the Kafala system facilitates modern-day slavery. Additional factors such as race and gender play a contributing role. Put simply, darker-skinned workers who possess professional degrees are placed in lower-income roles. Gender-based discrimination is also rife. Women workers face abuse, primarily of the sexual kind. This is particularly disturbing given that Qatar and Kuwait are known to imprison women for extramarital sex — even in cases of rape.

Given what is known, FIFA arguably has a responsibility to take the world cup away from Qatar — or at the very least compensate the workers and their families. Amnesty International has demanded $440 Million in compensation for migrant workers. So, the all-important question of why the World Cup has not been taken away from Qatar boils down to money. According to the Guardian, just under $200 million in public funds was spent on the bid to host the World Cup. Any private funds spent remain untraceable.

Sportswashing Becomes the Norm

Sportswashing is when a tyrannical or corrupt regime uses sports to enhance its reputation. I’d like to discuss a very recent example: Newcastle FC’s takeover. It is important to emphasise that it is not the fault of fans who should enjoy the likely success that is about to come to a fallen giant of a football club — especially after the dismal Mike Ashley reign. Unfortunately, the origins of the money cannot be ignored. The backers are the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund which obtained an 80 per cent controlling stake in Newcastle FC.

To date, the biggest controversy surrounding the Saudis is the brutal murder of the Journalist, activist and author Jamal Khashoggi. His body was found cut into pieces with a bone saw. US intelligence agencies concluded the murder was approved by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi Arabian government has denied involvement.

The group, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) is leading the criticism.

‘Newcastle has sold its name and reputation to a brutal government with a brutal ruler,’ said Dawn’s executive director, Sarah Leah Whitson. Adding:

‘They may as well put Bin Salman’s picture on the club’s emblem. It is now more apparent than ever that English football will sell itself to anyone, no matter how abhorrent their crimes, if they offer up enough money.

‘I don’t think people really understand the corrupting influence that this deal will have. It normalises a dictator who literally goes around butchering journalists.’

The Premier League subjects every potential owner to a ‘Fit and Proper Owner Test.’ It has been said that this may have been rushed. It was also suggested that Johnson’s government may have put pressure on the Premier League to approve the takeover given Johnson’s relationship with Prince Mohammed, which has been described as a ‘bromance’. Johnson and his ministers have denied any involvement. However, given this government’s track record for telling the truth one can hardly rest assured.

We know of Qatar’s and other countries’ extensive list of human rights violations. And yet, the sports world seems happy to shut its eyes as long as enough money has been offered. And the violations? Swept under the rug.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.