Why is there not one company brave enough to boycott the Qatar World Cup?


FIFA needs to be hit the only place it hurts – the wallet

A story we wrote a year ago crashed our site yesterday after it was posted to popular link-sharing website reddit.

It’s not the first time one of our articles has gone viral, to use the loathsome phrase, but this one attracted a week’s worth of traffic to the site in just one day, aside from the thousands of retweets and readers it attracted when we initially published it.

The story in question was this graph and a few accompanying lines about the sickening number of workers who have died in construction in the run up to the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

Qatar World Cup graph updated


If you can put the outrageous treatment of migrant workers aside for a moment, the 2022 World Cup is already fogged with controversy. Allegations of bribery and corruption at FIFA have been central to news reports since the host was announced. Firstly, during the bidding process Qatar faced competition from other nations with arguably a far more suitable climate for playing football, such as Australia, United States, Japan and South Korea. Qatar’s capital Doha routinely reaches 45C, a temperature way too hot for a sporting tournament – not just for the players, but the fans too.

FIFA is now considering moving the 2022 World Cup to wintertime, where it will clash with many countries’ league football, no doubt forcing the organisation to pay out to the leagues affected.

FIFA has conducted its own internal investigation and found it wasn’t corrupt (surprise, surprise). Are we to believe then that arguably the world’s biggest sporting organisation is just simply completely incompetent?


This morning, six FIFA officials including vice-president Jeffrey Webb were arrested in a dawn raid in Zurich on suspicion of corruption.

The corruption allegations are ahead of FIFA’s presidential election on Friday and not connected to Qatar, but if they’re found to be true, will only confirm what we’ve always known about the transparency and trustworthiness of the organisation.

A few days ago, Amnesty International released a report outlining the deplorable situation in Qatar, and the country’s abysmal progress in improving conditions for migrant workers. The report isn’t too long and definitely worth a read – for the eye-opening stats alone – but it concludes that, while the country has made some small progress in changing its laws, these changes are not being implemented on the ground. In fact, with Qatar’s migrant population increasing, it’s set to get worse.


However, what’s interesting is the silence we’re getting from the World Cup’s sponsors. A week ago Coca-Cola and Visa put out statements saying they do not condone human rights abuses and hope FIFA will work towards progress. Some might argue a statement is better than nothing, but I’d suggest this kind of statement is tantamount to nothing.

To the very cynical, this is simply a PR exercise: “this is attracting negative attention – we need to be seen to be doing something”.

Five of the World Cup’s biggest sponsors last year backed FIFA’s corruption enquiry (the same one where the organisation found itself innocent of wrongdoing) and some even complained about the allegations harming their reputations. But when it comes to actually exerting the real power they have, they shy away completely.

While FIFA does have the power to change the lives of 1.5 million migrant workers in Qatar by choosing another host nation, the simple fact is an organisation so toxic and damaged will not do anything while billions of pounds in sponsorship money is rolling in.

People online are already, rightly, highlighting the sponsors’ role in the human rights abuses by making anti-adverts for the companies – and let’s remember, it’s still seven years before the event is set to happen.

Qatar World Cup sponsor

Companies need to grow some balls (pardon the pun) and act now to save lives and reintroduce much needed integrity into both football and business. By pulling sponsorship from the event, it’s a chance for these massive multinational companies to show that corruption and bribery doesn’t have a place on the global stage in 2015.

Contractually, there would be some legal issues for any sponsor that pulls out at this stage – which would most likely result in a financial hit.

It might be unfashionable to say this, but these businesses need to learn there are some things more important than money.


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