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Momentum Grows for FIFA to Remedy Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

At 100 Days to World Cup, Athletes and Federation Leaders Back Action

The Norwegian national football team wear t-shirts calling for human rights for migrant workers prior to a match with Greece at Estadio La Rosaleda on June 6, 2021 in Malaga, Spain. © 2021 Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via AP

With the 2022 World Cup 100 days away, professional footballers, football association (FA) leaders, and fan groups are joining the #PayUpFIFA campaign by human rights groups and unions to demand FIFA and Qatari authorities remedy serious migrant worker abuses, including through financial compensation, ahead of the tournament.

The global football industry, including FAs, players, sponsors, and fans, funds FIFA, and can play a critical role in pressuring the organization to live up to its human rights responsibilities. The thousands of unexplained deaths, wage theft, and injuries to migrant workers in Qatar tarnish the sport of football, and spotlight the need to remedy abuses before the first ball is kicked.

Tim Sparv, former Finnish football captain, and Lise Klaveness, president of the Norwegian Football Association, have boldly backed the remedy call and agree that migrant workers should not die to deliver a World Cup.

“We cannot ignore the calls for change,” Klaveness told the FIFA Congress.

In a recent Twitter Space hosted by Human Rights Watch, former national player Klaveness acknowledged labor reforms made by Qatar and FIFA and said, “The Norwegian FA is fully behind the idea of complementing existing remedy mechanisms … We have to be very concrete now … to get the overarching mechanism in place so that this World Cup and the sport can be for some good now.”

Sparv likewise called for athletes to lead in pressing for permanent reforms. “I hope players will be vocal in Qatar … during, before and after the games. They will have media activities almost daily. I would definitely be a little disappointed if they didn’t grasp this chance to actually mention … the situation for migrant workers, LGBT rights, financial compensation for migrant workers, the situation for women, male guardianship.”

Now it is major football associations’ turn to move beyond cautious statements and instead demand concrete commitments from FIFA and Qatar. Qatari authorities have made some promising reforms in recent years, including the Workers Support and Insurance Fund, but these came late and have been poorly enforced. However, these reforms can be utilized and strengthened to ensure that past abuses are remedied.

Football players and teams should now use their leverage, influence, and voices to stand with migrant workers who have made the World Cup possible.

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