FIFA must put human rights at heart of World Cup expansion talks

Ahead of this week’s FIFA Council Meeting in Miami, Amnesty International and a coalition of NGOs, trade unions, fans and players groups have called on FIFA President Gianni Infantino to confirm that any country considered as a potential co-host of the 2022 World Cup must comply with the organization’s new human rights standards.

On Thursday FIFA members will meet to discuss a proposal to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams, with suggestions that additional matches could be played in other Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or UAE.

There are clear human rights risks associated with adding new hosts for the 2022 World Cup, including potential widespread exploitation of migrant workers
Stephen Cockburn, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

In an open letter the organizations reminded the FIFA President that according to FIFA’s own policies, and in order for FIFA to meet its corporate responsibility to respect human rights, FIFA must ensure that any country wishing to host a World Cup event first provides credible guarantees to meet international human rights law and labour standards, and develops clear action plans to prevent and mitigate potential abuses in connection to the tournament.

“There are clear human rights risks associated with adding new hosts for the 2022 World Cup, not least the potential widespread exploitation of migrant workers providing construction and other services for the World Cup that could cast a major shadow over the world’s biggest sporting event,” said Stephen Cockburn, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“Gianni Infantino has said he wants to make the World Cup more inclusive. This means FIFA must assess potential co-hosts in Gulf countries to ensure that the World Cup is not contributing or linked to human rights violations which are rife in the region.”

The NGOs are calling on FIFA to confirm that any country putting itself forward will be assessed for human rights risks, and be expected to provide credible plans to prevent labour rights abuse, discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in connection to the tournament.

In November 2018, the FIFA President told journalists that neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia could be considered to host additional games in an expanded World Cup. In February the Chairman of the UAE General Sports Authority said that UAE, Kuwait and Oman would be willing to co-host the tournament if the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf could be resolved.

The open letter is signed by:

Amnesty International

Football Supporters Europe

Gulf Centre for Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

International Trade Union Congress

Transparency International

UNI Global Union

World Players Association

Background

On 14-15 March the FIFA Council will discuss a proposal by a number of associations to expand the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams. Current costs Qatar have launched a feasibility study into their capacity to host an expanded tournament and would not be obliged to accept a decision of the FIFA Council. If an expansion is agreed in principle, new hosts would be decided by the FIFA Congress – the organisation’s supreme decision-making body made up of all 211 associations – which next meets in June 2019 in Paris.