Athletes, Fans Demand Remedy for Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

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Ex-Australian men’s national football team captain Craig Foster announced he would donate his salary as a broadcaster during the World Cup to families of deceased workers and LGBTI and women’s rights groups.
© 2022 Craig Foster

With only weeks remaining until the opening kickoff of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, support is rapidly spreading across world football to compensate migrant workers abused during preparations for the tournament.

At a Human Rights Watch press briefing this week, former Australian men’s national football team captain Craig Foster, a staunch supporter of the #PayUpFIFA campaign, said he will donate his salary as a broadcaster at the games to families of deceased workers and LGBTI and women’s rights groups. That should encourage the global football industry, in particular corporate partners and football associations, to go beyond cautiously worded statements and boldly support the remedy call and consider financially contributing themselves.

Human Rights Watch, other rights groups, and unions are calling on FIFA and Qatari authorities to remedy serious migrant worker abuses, including through financial compensation, before the start of the tournament.

“This World Cup will set a standard for future events,” Foster said, calling on others from the football industry to follow suit. “Either we pretend that thousands of people haven’t died so that we can play, or we make a stand for human rights compliance in, and through sport. Silence is not an option.”

Beyond Foster, the list of prominent footballers backing the call has expanded to include former star players Tim Sparv, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer; Netherlands Football Manager Louis Van Gaal, Norway and Germany football association presidents Lise Klaveness and Bernd Neuendorf, and the Netherlands and UK football associations.

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by Amnesty International suggested 73 percent polled across 15 countries support FIFA using World Cup revenue to compensate workers harmed.

Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, said taking the competition to countries like Qatar has forced fan groups to build up expertise on human rights, saying one of their key priorities is to amplify voices of migrant workers.

“Just like players, the World Cup is important to us,” Evain said. “We [fans] did not choose it, we did not support it and it leaves some of us fans with no other option than choosing between their passion and their principles.”

As Foster says, those who love football must find their voices now to support those who made the World Cup possible: “Compensation must come before celebration.”

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