It’ll be seven years before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar kicks off, but the event has generated quite a bit of controversy already.
For example, The Guardian reported that migrant workers tasked with building the infrastructure required for the tournament died at a rate of one every two days last year. Amnesty International released a report on worker abuses late last year. There are also reports of journalists being arrested.
That’s trouble not just for FIFA, which runs the World Cup, but the many sponsors who make the spectacle happen every four years. This week, three of the biggest sponsors—Visa, Adidas and Coca-Cola—stepped up to say something about the accusations.
Here’s Visa’s statement, released Tuesday via Tumblr:
We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.
Then Coca-Cola released this statement Wednesday:
The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address questions regarding specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress.
We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.
According to the Associated Press, a statement from Adidas, which has long provided game balls for the World Cup, said:
There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing, but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.
None of the companies threatened to pull out as sponsors, but it seems clear that they’re trying to put pressure on FIFA and Qatari officials. In response to the sponsors’ concerns, FIFA released this statement, according to Sky Sports:
FIFA has repeatedly urged publicly and with the highest authorities in Qatar that fair working conditions for all workers in Qatar are imperative.
Migrant workers have been working for many global companies in Qatar for decades, yet only now is real change happening in their working conditions.
While there are huge construction programs under way in Qatar that have no connection to the FIFA World Cup, it is clear that the FIFA World Cup is serving as a catalyst for significant change.
FIFA, alongside trade unions and human rights organisations, will continue to urge the Qatari authorities to accomplish reforms and abolish the Kafala system. Ultimately, however, sustainable change in the whole country can only be reached in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved, including international companies and governments.
World Cup organizers contend that no one has died in the process of building arenas for the 2022 event.