By Nick Harris
18 May 2015
International workers’ unions have today joined forces with pressure groups seeking reform of football’s world governing body Fifa to demand that Fifa’s sponsors accept their corporate responsibility and challenge human rights abuses at World Cup 2022 infrastructure construction sites in Qatar. The move comes as reports are published about BBC journalists being arrested while trying to cover the issue.
The initiative to put pressure on Fifa sponsors Adidas, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Hyundai, McDonald’s, Visa, Gazprom and Kia is being co-ordinated by sports compression wear company SKINS, whose chairman Jaimie Fuller was recently smuggled into the labour camps in Qatar to record fresh evidence of the ongoing squalid living conditions for migrant workers employed there.
Footage from the camps is at the foot of this article, and also included in a new short film, ‘The Hypocrisy World Cup’ presented by veteran investigative reporter, Andrew Jennings.
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Fuller has written to eight Fifa sponsors, accusing them of ‘contravening their own values and principles’ by contributing significant sums of money to Fifa and thereby providing ‘implicit support’ for working practices and conditions in Qatar.
In the letter, Mr Fuller tells each company’s CEO that migrant workers on World Cup infrastructure-related sites are “denied basic human rights as well as the fundamental humanity, morality and decency that you and I, and the people we employ, are entitled to take for granted.”
Each organisation is invited to support the New FIFA Now call for an independent Fifa reform commission to ‘review, develop and implement an overhaul of FIFA’s statutes, committee structure and way of doing business.’
Fuller says said: “The kafala problem is just the tip of the Fifa iceberg but it graphically shows their negligence and their level of self-denial when it comes to confronting international football’s major issues.
“So far, Fifa’s sponsors have restricted themselves to a series of rhetorical statements aimed at defending an indefensible association.”
Today’s event was supported by International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, Sharan Burrow and Stephen Russell of the UK Trade Union Congress-backed group Playfair Qatar. Bi-partisan support was confirmed by the attendance of campaigning MP Damian Collins,
Burrow said: “Qatar is a slave state. The discrimination, the racism, the denial of rights for 1.4 million migrant workers adds up to apartheid and a model of employment that is simply slavery. There is a conspiracy of silence by governments and major sporting and cultural institutions that allow it to continue. The world must not be duped by Qatar’s empty promises of reform.”
Russell said: “The Football Supporters’ Federation is fully behind us and fans everywhere will be shocked to learn how workers in Qatar are treated. The World Cup is supposed to be a celebration of all that is good in sport. However, as things stand, more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament.
“Fifa and its sponsors cannot wash their hands over what is happening. They have a moral responsibility to ensure that Qatar ends these human rights abuses now.”
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