FIFA has yet to back workers’ appeal fund despite growing support

(New York) – FIFA has yet to formally commit to a fund to compensate migrant workers for injuries and deaths in Qatar, despite public support from at least seven national football associations, four sponsors of the World Cup, former players, political leaders and, according to an opinion poll, a large majority of the public in 15 countries, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FairSquare said today.

On May 17, five months ago, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FairSquare, along with a global coalition of rights groups, unions and fan support groups, launched the #PayUpFIFA campaign demanding that FIFA awards redress, including financial compensation, for serious abuses, including death, injury, unpaid wages and exorbitant recruitment costs. Just a month away from the tournament, FIFA has yet to announce it will address the abuses but says it is still considering the proposal.

“It’s embarrassing that despite prominent footballers, football associations and sponsors backing the #PayUpFIFA campaign and widespread popular support, FIFA has still failed to commit to appealing for a recourse fund to many thousands of migrant workers who died, were injured or had their wages stolen while making the World Cup possible,” said Michael Page, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch: “FIFA is failing in its human rights responsibilities and showing its contempt for the migrant workers who have built the infrastructure of the Qatar tournament that will fuel its profits.”

On October 13, The Associated Press reported that FIFA Deputy General Secretary Alasdair Bell told a Council of Europe session that compensation is “certainly something we want to move forward.” However, with just weeks to go until the opening match of the World Cup, neither FIFA nor Qatar have formally committed to establishing a fund to address a range of harms, including the deaths of migrant workers who staged the World Cup.

When football’s governing body FIFA granted Qatar the rights to host the World Cup in 2010, it knew or should have known that the millions of migrant workers building an unprecedented $220 billion infrastructure would face serious human rights risks. Yet FIFA has neither imposed labor rights conditions nor undertaken human rights due diligence. The organization has no longer publicly committed to addressing these serious abuses with weeks to go until the tournament begins.

Since May, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FairSquare have contacted the 32 football associations (FAs) that qualify for the 2022 World Cup, urging them to publicly support the appeals fund. Of these, at least seven of the qualified FAs have so far publicly supported the call for redress, including:

  • Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA),
  • French Football Federation (FFF),
  • English Football Federation,
  • Deutscher Fußball-Bund (German Football Association, DFB),
  • Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond (Royal Dutch Football Association, KNVB),
  • Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the
  • United States Soccer Federation (American Football).

In addition, the call was supported by the Norwegian Football Federation, while the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the umbrella organization of 55 national football associations, the workers’ rights working group in Qatar lobbied FIFA for a commitment to remedy the program. On October 14, UEFA’s task force said it had asked FIFA to respond and commit to outstanding issues regarding migrant workers by the end of October. The call comes after their June report following a trip to Qatar indicating that the issue of compensation was discussed at length and that the task force “agreed in principle that any injury or death in any workplace in n any country should be compensated”.

Of the 32 qualified teams, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and/or FairSquare conducted in-person or online briefings with FAs, including DFB, KNVB, English FA, Belgian FA, Swiss FA , the French FA, American football, Dansk Boldspil-Union (the Danish Football Union, DBU) as well as the UEFA working group. Three FAs, the Japanese FA, the Football Association of Wales and Football Australia, provided written responses which did not provide any substantive information and failed to respond to a recommendation they are advocating to FIFA to address harm to migrant workers. However, the Football Association of Wales later released a statement saying that together with the UEFA working group they “have agreed on the principle that any injury or death should be compensated”.

At the German FA’s (DFB) human rights conference on September 19, chairman Bernd Neuendorf expressed his “unconditional support” for the appeals fund. The Dutch FA (KNVB) also backed the call for compensation, saying the victims or their relatives should be compensated. Dutch head coach Louis Van Gaal strongly supported the remedy call. The English FA said it was continuing to push for the “principle of compensation” for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or been injured on construction projects. The French Football Federation (FFF) said it was working with a dozen other federations to create “a compensation fund for all those who were victims of accidents at work during the construction of the Cup of the world”. In response to questions from the media, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) coach also supported the compensation fund. Among those yet to respond publicly are the 2026 host football associations Mexico and Canada.

A recent global opinion poll commissioned by Amnesty International shows that 67% of 17,477 people polled in 15 countries also share the view that their national federations should speak out publicly on human rights issues related to the World Cup in Qatar, in particular by asking for compensation for migrants. workers. Four sponsors, AB InBev/Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Adidas and McDonald’s have declared their support for the call for solution. Recently, 15 members of the American Congress and more than 120 French parliamentarians also wrote to FIFA in support of the call for redress.

“The message from fans, football associations, political leaders and sponsors is clear: it’s time for FIFA to act and put things right for the migrant workers who made their flagship tournament possible,” said Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic Justice at Amnesty International. . “There is a clear choice for FIFA: dedicate a small proportion of World Cup revenue to making a huge difference for thousands of workers or do nothing and accept that the tournament will be indelibly marked by human rights violations. human rights.”

There is also growing momentum from prominent footballers, coaches and sports commentators supporting the #PayUpFIFA call, including Tim Sparv, former captain of the Finnish football team, and Lise Klaveness, president of the Norwegian FA, who has long insisted on the need to address human rights. abuses linked to this World Cup. At a joint Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Fairsquare press briefing, former Australian men’s national soccer team captain Craig Foster announced that he would donate his salary as a broadcaster during the World Cup to families of deceased workers, among others. Such initiatives should encourage the global football industry, especially the FAs, to go beyond cautiously worded statements. Other top footballers backing the appeal include former star players Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

As member associations of FIFA, the FAs are required to follow FIFA’s own human rights policy. Moreover, as bodies which, through their commercial relations with FIFA, benefit financially from the income generated by the World Cup, the federal federations also have a responsibility, under the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, to use their influence to prevent and mitigate actual and potential risks. adverse human rights impacts, which they cause, contribute to or are linked to, including in Qatar.

Since 2018, Qatari authorities have put in place promising measures to protect workers from wage theft and improve access to justice, while introducing reforms to the kafala (sponsorship) system. However, significant gaps remain. The benefits of these programs have been limited due to their late introduction and narrow scope, as they do not cover all workers, particularly in the case of initiatives led by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy that offer better protections for a limited number of workers, or address abuses in the years before the systems were put in place. Fundamentally, significant gaps in implementation and enforcement remain. For example, workers who have already left Qatar cannot access labor committees or a fund set up to pay them when their employers do not.

Even the FAs who have spoken out should also go beyond carefully worded words and symbolic acts to use their platform to push for concrete actions that concretely benefit migrant workers and their families.

“Compensation can have far-reaching consequences for families who rely on the fund to repay loans, for children’s education or to buy food. When FAs lend their voice, they help ensure that thousands of families who have lost their sole breadwinner repay outstanding loans or unpaid bills,” said Nick McGeehan of FairSquare.

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