Fifa to involve human rights groups in talks over 2022 World Cup expansion
Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, has told human rights groups that it will involve them in conversations about whether to expand the 2022 World Cup to countries beyond Qatar, before making a final decision.
Fifa is currently assessing whether the 2022 tournament could handle an increase from 32 to 48 teams, if other Gulf nations are involved. If the number of teams does increase, this then would create an extra 16 matches during the tournament, the total number of games jumping from 64 to 80.
This in turn, would necessitate more stadiums being built or renovated, and more focus on the labour rights and working conditions of the workers building them.
Fatma Samoura, Fifa secretary, in a letter to groups including Amnesty International, said: “This process also includes an assessment of human rights risks and potential opportunities associated with a possible expansion… Fifa has been engaging closely with its Qatari counterparts over the past four years to foster such progress in the area of labour rights but also with respect to other human rights-related areas of relevance.”
Samoura continued: "We look forward to the bilateral consultation calls with many of you [human rights groups] in the coming days and weeks."
In March, a feasibility study commissioned by Fifa found that giving the tournament 16 more games would require at least two more stadiums being built across the region.
Earlier this month, Fifa president Gianni Infantino held talks in Kuwait about the possibility of that country hosting World Cup fixtures. Kuwait may well now be the only viable option after Oman, another country under consideration to host matches, recently closed the door on co-hosting with Qatar.
A potential stumbling block with Kuwait holding matches may be the country's attitude towards alcohol - it has a complete ban in place at the moment, while Qatar has agreed to an exemption for foreigners.
Issues over working conditions, health and safety, and labour rights for foreign workers in Qatar have arisen repeatedly since the country was allocated the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, with various reports detailing poor working conditions, extremely low pay, and safety regulations not fit for purpose for workers, many of whom are from the subcontinent and get paid below the minimum wage of many Western nations, on the construction sites.
Although Qatar has now ended a requirement for foreign workers to seek their employers’ permission before leaving the country (a ruling that meant many were essentially trapped in the Gulf state), foreign rights activists insist this does not go far enough.
Other objections to Qatar hosting the World Cup, raised at various points over the last nine years, include; allegations of corruption against Fifa members who voted for the country to be selected; the myriad of political issues surrounding the tournament, including Qatar being blockaded by Saudi Arabia; concerns that Qatar is an active sponsor of terrorism (which it strongly denies); worries about how the LGBT community visiting Qatar for the World Cup will be treated; and logistical issues arising from the need to stage the World Cup in the European winter.
In other 2022 Fifa World Cup news, Qatar’s Al Wakrah Stadium, built specifically for the World Cup, will host its first match, the final of the country’s Amir Cup, on 16 May.
The stadium, which seats 40,000, is one of the eight venues currently planned to host World Cup matches, and the second to finish construction, after the Khalifa International Stadium, which only needed renovating, was finished and hosted a game in 2017.
Thani Khalifa Al Zarraa, the stadium project manager for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the country's World Cup orgainising committee, said of the stadium: “Its innovative and futuristic design means it is set to be one of the iconic venues during the first Fifa World Cup in the Arab world.”
After the World Cup, the stadium will be home to Al Wakrah Sports Club, and the capacity will be reduced to 20,000.