Infantino and Ruggie (FIFA)

(WFI) A report by a Harvard professor urges FIFA to consider stripping World Cup hosting rights from countries who fail to respect human rights standards.

Commissioned by world football’s governing body, the report by Professor Ruggie – part of the development of a “FIFA Human Rights Policy” – ramps up the pressure on 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, who have been heavily criticized for their treatment of migrant workers. Earlier this month, Amnesty International said migrant workers building Qatar’s showpiece Khalifa stadium have been forced to live in squalid and cramped accommodation, while some contractors have withheld pay, confiscated passports and refused exit visas.

Ruggie makes recommendations to “embed” respect for human rights across FIFA’s operations and business relationships, based on his work for the UN on human rights issues.

He said FIFA had been “beset by allegations about human rights abuses in connection with its events and relationships”, a specific reference to Qatar.

“Prominent among them have been reported deaths among migrant construction workers in Qatar, which was awarded the 2022 men’s World Cup, and the country’s kafala system that often leaves migrant workers in situations of bonded labour,” he added.

“Where FIFA is unable to reduce severe human rights impacts by using its leverage, it should consider suspending or terminating the relationship.” This recommendation not only concerns World Cup hosting contracts but deals with sponsors.

The report’s 25 recommendations will feed into FIFA’s development of the requirements for the 2026 World Cup bidding and hosting process. Ruggie is calling for FIFA to use human rights in evaluation of bids for FIFA tournament while also setting requirements for organising committees.

FIFA included an article on human rights in the new FIFA Statutes approved at its Feb. 26 congress at which Gianni Infantino was elected to succeed the disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.

FIFA has vowed to improve its human rights responsibilities in its business operations. Its commitments include monitoring discrimination at World Cup qualifiers, application of ethical standards on child labour, forced labour and working conditions and monitoring systems for working conditions at World Cup construction sites in Russia and Qatar, as well a programme to promote and establish gender equality in football.

“FIFA is fully committed to respecting human rights,” said Infantino, promising that Ruggie’s report together with the world federation’s own analysis would “guide the way forward”.

“This is an ongoing process and of course challenges remain, but FIFA is committed to playing its part in ensuring respect for human rights and to being a leader among international sports organisations in this important area,” he said.

Commenting on the report, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow, said FIFA now had the job of implementing all the recommendations.

“This report makes clear that FIFA must act decisively,” she said.

“Equally Qatar, which fails massively to meet the standards set out in the report, must ahead of the UN human rights and business forum which it is hosting next week, make a real commitment to comprehensive reform.

“The system of modern slavery for migrant workers, the absolute denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, the poverty wages and the deep discrimination encountered by those who are delivering the huge 2022 infrastructure programme is completely out of step with the requirements that Professor Ruggie has highlighted.”

She added: “This report represents a major challenge for FIFA, and it also gives an opportunity for Qatar to comprehensively reform its medieval labour laws and thus retain the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup.”

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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