Football fans who had waited years for the World Cup were left in complete dismay by the decision.
Uproar ensued on social media among football fans in the United Kingdom as the BBC and ITV networks decided to not broadcast most of the 2022 World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar on Sunday.
After eagerly waiting for the major sporting event, which many English fans believe will witness the trophy “coming home”, the audience had to find ways to view the opening ceremony online instead.
According to furious social media users, the BBC deprived its audience of the ceremony as it did not wish to interrupt the coverage of the Women’s Super League match.
Once the game ended, the BBC showed its viewers a news package with allegations on Qatar’s human rights record throughout its preparations for the World Cup.
Consequently, several football fans in London had to miss out on a spectacular performance at the Al Bayt stadium that featured prominent K-pop artist Jung Kook, who entertained tens of thousands of fans at the venue.
Viewers also lost a breathtaking surprise appearance by American actor Morgan Freeman, and an entire show that gave the whole world a glimpse of the Middle East.
“The FIFAWorldCup ceremony started with [a] beautiful recitation of the Quran. Instead of showing the ceremony, BBC Sports or ITV Football hypocritically sat in Qatar virtue signalling and talking about how bad Qatar is,” said one outraged Twitter user.
The British broadcasters have yet to issue a statement on the matter, with viewers left in utter dismay at the decision.
Meanwhile, the choice to broadcast the package further echoed what many Qatari and global officials had slammed as a racist campaign targeting the first Arab, Muslim country to host the major tournament.
People in the UK were quick to express their outrage on social media, slamming the decision as “disrespectful”.
“The fact the BBC haven’t shown the World Cup Opening Ceremony on their terrestrial channels is so disrespectful,” tweeted media personality Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.
Another Twitter user questioned the reason behind the BBC’s abrupt decision, while highlighting the country’s “neo-colonialism”.
“We don’t all support their neo-colonialism telling the rest of the world how to behave. Don’t like it, don’t go there. Otherwise, show some respect,” said the Twitter user.
The same social media account added that “the relentless attack on Qatar is blatant intolerance and racism”.
“But it’s cloaked in virtue so their woke imperialism is apparently totally fine.”
Since making history in 2010 as the first Arab nation to win the bid to host the World Cup, Qatar has faced relentless scrutiny.
The criticism over the Gulf state was mainly driven by the West and has evolved over time, from criticising its geographically small size to alleged violations of migrant workers’ rights.
Officials in Qatar had cited the West’s refusal to see a non-western country host the World Cup.
Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser Al Khater said “European countries feel they have a monopoly over the World Cup.”
“Europe has hosted 11 tournaments out of 22 tournaments, of course it refuses that a country like Qatar or an Arab Muslim country hosts a tournament like the World Cup,” Al Khater told Al Jazeera Arabic in a televised interview earlier this month.
Qatar has repeatedly responded by citing its efforts to reform its legislation to address the concerns, most notably the dismantling of the controversial kafala, or sponsorship, system. Under the system, employees were unable to freely switch jobs.
Commenting on the criticism on Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that Europe should apologise for “what it has been doing for 3,000 years” instead of offering “moral lessons”.
The UK public broadcaster’s choice to highlight Qatar’s alleged abuses of migrant workers’ rights also comes as the English team faces criticism.
In 2018, reports have pointed to the fact that England’s World Cup football kits at the time were made in a factory in Bangladesh by severely underpaid workers. According to the Telegraph, the factory is located “inside a restricted government-controlled zone.
Russia, the host of the tournament at the time, faced similar criticism over its human rights record. Yet, the BBC aired the opening ceremony while remaining silent on the bombardment of Syrians by the Syrian regime with the backing of Russia.
The Syrian city of Douma was also subjected to chemical attack in 2018 where at least 70 civilians were killed. Moscow, however, denied the use of chemical weapons accusing the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of providing factual and technical errors.
“BBC is a joke, World Cup in Russia 2018 they broadcast the opening ceremony without a speech about human rights ( Syria was getting bommbed at that time by Putin ) , same with the 2022 Olympics in China. Double Standards just cause it’s in the Middle East,” said one Twitter user.