The recent scandal surrounding corruption at FIFA has made headlines around the world. But could it affect the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar?
That remained in question Friday as FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter as its president. The election comes on the heels of a massive corruption investigation involving the top brass of soccer’s governing body. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 of the organization’s executives on dozens of separate charges this week. They are accused of “brazen corruption” in their dealings with sports marketing companies which generate billions for the organization.
FIFA is also accused of dishonesty in its selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it would investigate “criminal mismanagement and money laundering” suspected to have taken place during the bidding process.
Though both selections raised eyebrows among soccer fans, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be the most controversial. The Gulf state has been widely accused of human rights abuses in its preparation for the event.
Migrant laborers seeking work in Qatar submit to a labor scheme, known as the kafala system, through which host companies “sponsor” foreign laborers. Upon arrival, many workers find their documentation confiscated and their rights severely limited. They sometimes work twelve hour days, seven days a week.
According to the International Labor Organization, the scheme is tantamount to slavery. An investigation by The Guardian found Nepalese workers in Qatar were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014. Documents produced by that report list worker deaths caused by crushing and electrocution.
Without documentation papers, workers are prevented from ever leaving. Employers also withhold pay to suppress dissent.
Migrant workers play an enormous role in the economy of Qatar. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born and 99 percent of the private sector is foreign. Though human rights organizations and governments have complained, little has been done to address these issues.
Much of the work being conducted in this manner is in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, with contractors using the cheap labor to build facilities for the event.
If the current FIFA crisis continues, it will almost certainly jeopardize Qatar’s hosting opportunity. Sponsors have already begun to re-evaluate their relations with the organization and it is likely many will drop out.
As for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Blatter received a stamp of approval from another controversial president: Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Putin said the investigation was an attempt to thwart Blatter’s re-election. The Russian leader, who was a champion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the investigation “a grave violation of principles of international organization.”
– Kevin McLaughlin