Browsing 'fifa' News

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FIFA headquarters

A new advisory board with a human rights focus will hold its first meeting with FIFA in Zurich today.

The formation of the independent panel comes as the world’s football governing body fends off international criticism over labor abuses in various countries.

Problems have been found especially in nations that have held and will host the World Cup, including South Africa, Brazil, Qatar and Russia.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last year, the author of a report commissioned by FIFA urged it to “consider suspending or terminating” its relationship with World Cup hosts who fail to clean up their human rights records.

The organization has stopped short of committing to that recommendation.

But in a statement this month, FIFA said it will take the new board’s advice seriously when it comes to ensuring that “labour standards, health and safety, property rights, security, discrimination and freedom of expression” are met across its operations.

‘Standing up’ for rights

The panel includes representatives from the United Nations, trade groups and businesses such as Coca Cola.

Human rights groups appear to be cautiously optimistic about the development.

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Workers on Khalifa stadium renovation

Speaking to Doha News, James Lynch, deputy director of global issues at Amnesty International, said the panel “includes a number of credible voices.”

But he expressed concern because the panel’s mandate appears to have changed from one of monitoring and oversight to advising.

He added:

“If FIFA is going to live up to its recent public commitment to take human rights risks as seriously as it does its commercial interests, then it will need to listen very carefully to the advice of this group and act on their recommendations.”

In addition to the new panel, FIFA said it is coordinating closely with Qatar and Russia’s World Cup organizing committees to ensure they are meeting appropriate labor standards.

It added that officials are also working on integrating human rights criteria into the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup.

Thoughts?

Reem Saad / Doha News

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Qatar could be the last country to solo host the World Cup, as FIFA prepare to accept applications from nations who want to co-host the 2026 games.

Speaking to media yesterday while in Doha, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the tournament could be held by up to four countries, according to Reuters.

This is because many nations incur a heavy financial toll preparing for and hosting the World Cup.

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Qatar Foundation stadium rendering

Qatar for example is spending a staggering $500 million a week on tournament and infrastructure-related projects ahead of 2022.

“We will encourage co-hosting for the World Cup because we need FIFA to show we are reasonable and we have to think about sustainability long-term,” Infantino said.

Bidding for the games could begin later this year.

White elephants

The question of sustainability has dogged Qatar since it was selected as a World Cup host in 2010.

The country is building most of its stadiums from scratch, as well as hundreds of hotels that could end up sitting empty after the tournament.

Gianni Infantino visits Khalifa International Stadium.

FIFA

FIFA President Gianni Infantino during a 2016 visit to Khalifa International Stadium.

According to BBC, Infantino said he is confident Qatar’s projects will be ready on time. But he added that “a lot remains to be done.”

And previously, Qatar officials have said they don’t want to end up with any “white elephants.”

Instead, the country plans to host several other sporting tournaments to make use of their facilities before and after the World Cup.

Thoughts?

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A commercial court in Zurich has rejected a lawsuit against FIFA that accused the body of failing to project migrant workers in Qatar.

The legal action was filed against FIFA last month by Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV).

It was supported by the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC) and the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation (BBWWF).

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FIFA headquarters

FNV asked the court to rule against FIFA for selecting Qatar as 2022 World Cup host before first demanding assurances about “fundamental human and labor rights of migrant construction workers, including the abolition of the kafala system.”

The union, which represents 1.1 million workers in the Netherlands and overseas, filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Bangladeshi man who worked in Qatar.

He was fired before the end of his contract and ended up in debt in his home country due to recruitment fees.

FNV sought only QR37,000 in compensation and damages for 31-year-old Nadim Shariful Alam.

But a victory could have encouraged hundreds of thousands of other blue-collar workers to file legal claims against FIFA.

Reactions

FIFA hailed the Swiss court’s decision, saying it takes working conditions and human rights issues in Qatar “very seriously.”

In a statement yesterday, it added:

“FIFA monitors the situation very closely and, as recently stated by President Infantino, will continue to urge the Qatari authorities to ensure safe and decent working conditions for construction workers.”

The organization also pointed out new developments in terms of labor rights in Qatar over the past few years.

These include the establishment of worker welfare standards, an independent auditing system and plans to allow a global trade union to inspect worker accommodation this year.

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Workers on Khalifa stadium renovation

However, these reforms only apply to the fraction of blue-collar workers in Qatar who are on specific World Cup projects, such as building the stadiums.

They do not apply to the hundreds of thousands of other expats working on major infrastructure projects ahead of 2022.

For its part, FNV expressed disappointment in the ruling.

“We regret this decision very much, because it leaves migrant workers out in the cold,” it said in a statement yesterday.

But the group added that it remains committed to the rights of Qatar workers and is now planning their “next steps” in this regard.

Thoughts?