Netherlands and Germany, both of which had initiated boycott calls that they did not follow through with, have yet to endorse the campaign.
None of the 31 qualifying federations have yet backed the #PayUpFIFA campaign to compensate workers in the Gulf state, despite being vocal about their disapproval of the World Cup being held in Qatar, according to a survey.
In a survey sent to global football federations by the UK’s The Independent, the outlet said only fourteen acknowledged the email, but only eight provided appropriate responses to inquiries.
Australia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain were among those to answer questions on human rights concerns in relation to their participation at the Qatar World Cup, as well as plans to support or comment on the #PayUpFIFA campaign.
Seven of them indicated direct concern about human rights issues in Qatar, though The Independent said Belgium, Croatia, and the United States have reportedly addressed their concerns to the hosts separately.
Australia, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany have invited human rights organisations such as Amnesty International to speak directly to their players.
Others, including England, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland, have had ongoing discussions with such organisations but do not wish to prioritise one over another in terms of speaking with the squads.
Meanwhile, the federations of England, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and Australia outlined their current positions in clear and nuanced detail. Under the supervision of UEFA and its continuous working groups on Qatar, the general consensus among European qualifiers is that they wish to come together as a collective statement with “global impact.”
The #PayUpFIFA campaign is a collective appeal by human rights groups for FIFA to match the tournament’s $440 million in prize money with compensation for migrant workers who have experienced human rights violations during the tournament’s preparations.
Some federations, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, have voiced support for the campaign’s sentiments but have not yet confirmed their endorsement.
“For domestic football federations, ultimately there is typically only one thing that matters: when the whistle blows and the match starts, they want to win,” Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at SKEMA Business School in Paris, told Doha News.
Qatar has been placed under international scrutiny over its treatment of migrant workers ever since it won the bid to host the first FIFA World Cup event in the Middle East.
This saw the onset of several calls for boycott, with Norway initiating the movement in Europe. Among those who joined calls for boycott were the Netherlands and Germany, both of which decided not to follow through with their claims.
Only slightly more than a third of qualified nations have held appropriate talks with human rights organisations concerning this World Cup, and only four of those have allowed such bodies to speak directly to players.
Meanwhile, Spain, along with France and Poland, was one of three federations that did not specifically mention Qatar in their comments.
Despite significant criticism, the association of the 2010 winners cited measures related to the relocation of the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia as proof of their dedication to human rights.
According to Chadwick, the “anti-host” narrative is nothing new, but there are two things that differentiate Qatar.
“Whereas most World Cup hosts are in the spotlight for three or four years, Qatar has been in the spotlight for more than a decade – it has been exposed to an unprecedented level of scrutiny,” said Chadwick.
All talk, no action
In March, the Head Coach of the Netherlands national football team has accused FIFA of taking the tournament to Qatar for “money” and “commercial” purposes and that is “the only thing that matters to FIFA.”
Louis van Gaal, also the Dutch association football manager, said that it is “ridiculous” that the FIFA World Cup 2022 is being unravelled in the Gulf country.
The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) has “always” been critical of the labour rights and working conditions in Qatar, however it was especially underlined in 2021.
The football entity has “never been in favour of holding the World Cup in Qatar and of course certainly doesn’t approve of the way in which migrant workers are treated there,” it said in a statement last year following a visit to the host country.
“World Cups have historically been staged in Europe or South America, yet increasingly westerners are faced with the inconvenient truth that the world is pivoting towards the global south. Criticism of Qatar therefore appears to be emblematic of anxieties felt by the west, as this pivot takes place,” Chadwick told Doha News.
Fuelled by racism?
In May, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took aim at the unfair criticism of the Gulf state by the west over its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
This came during his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, in which the amir tapped into attacks launched against the Gulf state for being the first in the Middle East to host the major sporting event.
“For decades now, the Middle East has suffered, from discrimination. And I have found that such discrimination is largely based on people not knowing us, and in some cases, refusing to get to know us,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Analysts say a lot of the criticism that Qatar receives is not fuelled by the demand for positive change, and is instead filled with racist and Islamophobic undertones.
“Mega-event hosting should ultimately be an egalitarian phenomenon – all countries are entitled to stage football’s World Cups. However, as concerns about nations such as Qatar playing host to these tournaments are expressed, it does rather play into the stereotypes and tropes associated with Qataris, Arabs and Muslims,” Chadwick said.
Over the past few years, Qatar has seen a number of labour reforms. In 2021, they introduced the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage law.
Additionally, Qatar approved two key laws in August 2020 to eliminate barriers on migrant workers leaving the country and changing jobs without permission from their employers.
“Whenever a country hosts the World Cup, it will be scrutinised, often in unfair, possibly damaging ways. As a country, you can either respond and make changes or you remain resolute in accentuating who you and deal with the consequences of this.”