Southgate voices concerns over Qatar’s human rights record but states a better approach is needed to solve the issue.
England manager Gareth Southgate says it is a “great shame” that some fans will not be traveling to Qatar for the World Cup due to concerns over human rights issues.
The Gulf country has been facing persistent accusations from Western media regarding the treatment of migrant workers and its poor human rights record for more than a decade despite revolutionary labour reforms and several policy amendments.
Southgate has agreed that the country has made progress regarding labour reforms, but he stated that more work is needed to ensure the policies are rightfully enforced.
However, no one is being “complacent” regarding the issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup, he added.
“The building of the stadiums was the first, and there’s nothing we can do about that now. They’re built. There are obviously ongoing concerns about the rights of workers and the conditions they live in and those areas,” he said.
“It seems universally accepted that’s better than it was, but not in the position where people think it could be. And maybe policies that have been put in place are not always enforced as they might be.”
Qatari officials have also repeatedly stated throughout that supporters will be safe in Doha, ensuring all fans are ‘welcomed’ for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. However, some remain unsettled due to the media’s relentless attacks on the Gulf nation.
“We stand for inclusivity as a team, that’s been the big driver of a lot of the stances we’ve taken in the last couple of years and it would be horrible to think some of our fans feel they can’t go because they feel threatened or they’re worried about their safety,” Southgate said.
He added that he is now “clear” on the issues related to the World Cup and plans to hold talks with the team ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and the Ivory Coast.
“I don’t think any of us are complacent about any of it. I’m certainly taking it very seriously. I want to make sure the players are protected, I want to make sure they are able to use their voice in the right way but I also don’t want them to be used with broader agendas at play, perhaps,” he explained.
“So it’s going to be complicated. And I think we’re going to get some criticism whatever we do, but we’re going to try to do the best that we can.”
Different approach needed
For more than a year, England’s players have been taking the knee before matches to protest racism and discrimination. Some have even called to boycott the tournament but later revoked their decision.
Southgate, however, says a different approach is needed to show their stance on the situation.
“I don’t think it’s something where we’re just going to be able to come out with a statement that will satisfy everything. This is different to taking the knee and the importance we felt on that. We’re not saying this is any less important,” he added.
“We feel the World Cup is an opportunity to highlight some of these issues and we have a platform to be able to do that. We’ve also got to do that in a responsible way.”
The English manager insists that he is taking the situation seriously and will “go further” in addressing the situation once he visits Doha for the World Cup draw next month.
“I think we have to be realistic about what that might be. We’re going to a country that FIFA decided where this tournament was going to be played: it’s culturally different and religiously different.”