New Internal Pressure May Force FIFA To Move The 2022 World Cup

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Qatar 2022 may be less of a done deal than we’ve been told.

An independent report commissioned by FIFA on the organization’s humanitarian responsibilities has made sweeping pronouncements on how football’s governing body should use its position and leverage to push for stronger human rights standards. One point that stands out is a call for FIFA to reevaluate the viability of holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The report— authored by John Ruggie, an international affairs and human rights professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government— pointed to Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers brought over to build stadia and infrastructure in advance of the tournament. The plight of these migrant workers has come under examination from a wide range of organizations, from NGOs to media outlets to the United Nations.

The internal report makes it clear that FIFA must do more to address human rights abuses in World Cup host countries, as well as walk the walk. “The foundational shift for Fifa now is to go beyond putting words on paper and adding new administrative functions. What is required is a cultural shift that must affect everything Fifa does and how it does it.”

Some recommendations in the report include incorporating human rights standards in its criteria for considering host countries and setting explicit humanitarian requirements for Local Organizing Committees.

The report comes as Qatar comes under renewed scrutiny and criticism. A report from Amnesty International released a few weeks ago sharply condemned Qatar’s ongoing mistreatment of migrant workers as well as FIFA’s seeming indifference to the situation. Meanwhile, the United Nations has given Qatar 12 months to stop exploiting migrant workers or else face a formal inquiry.

Ruggie’s reported noted that there are limits to FIFA’s power but that the organization has a lot of leverage and resources to push for basic human rights standards. “FIFA can’t impose human rights on countries but in return for hosting a tournament there are certain human rights to which you should have to adhere. If you can’t, you have to make tough decisions. That may include having to terminate an existing relationship.”

Recently-elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed the report as an important first step and said that the organization remains committed to human rights. “This is an ongoing process and of course challenges remain but FIFA is committed to playing its part in ensuring respect for human rights and to being a leader among international sports organisations in this important area.”

FIFA’s head of sustainability Federico Addiechi echoed that sentiment. “As the governing body of the most popular sport in the world, we have a responsibility in regard to human rights and in terms of how we go about developing the game of football and organising our competitions. Beyond that, FIFA is committed to using its leverage to ensure respect for human rights.”

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