Coca-Cola, Visa speak out on 2022 World Cup migrant worker abuse

Both multinationals said they are working to improve human rights in Qatar, one day after activists called for the tournament's sponsors to take a stand.

The design for Al Rayyan stadium in Qatar. (Image via
The design for Al Rayyan stadium in Qatar. (Image via

LONDON: Coca-Cola and Visa have spoken out against the alleged human-rights abuses taking place in Qatar, where hundreds of workers have reportedly died during construction on 2022 World Cup sites.

Coke, along with FIFA’s other seven sponsors, is under pressure to make its voice heard on poor working conditions in Qatar and to lobby its government to address human-rights abuses.

"The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world," a spokesman for the company said. "We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human-rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress."

The company added it will work with groups on issues of human dignity.

"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," the spokesman said.

Visa has issued a similar statement, urging FIFA to act more quickly.

"We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant-worker conditions," a spokesman for the company said. "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."

The companies commented after a group of workers’ rights unions launched a campaign to pressure the eight sponsors into taking a stand.

The remaining sponsors are McDonald's, Adidas, Kia, Hyundai, Gazprom, and Budweiser.

Jamie Fuller, CEO of Australian sports brand Skins, said he had personally written to the eight CEOs asking them to push for organizational reforms at FIFA.

British Conservative MP and FIFA reform activist Damian Collins told the press the sponsors would have "blood on their hands" if they let the situation continue.

About 1.4 million migrant workers are estimated to be living in Qatar to build stadiums for the World Cup, with many reportedly residing in squalid conditions.

Kia refused to comment on the issue, while the other sponsors have yet to respond to a request for comment. Several sports marketing agencies, whose clients include the FIFA sponsors, also refused to comment.

Unlikely to pull out
While activists have called on the sponsors to reconsider their support for the tournament, it is extremely unlikely any will drop out.

One reason brands are unlikely to take drastic action is the pay-off from World Cup sponsorship. Several are also long-term sponsors, with Coke involved with FIFA since 1974. The soft-drink maker last year trumpeted the fact that it was the "most-recognized" brand sponsor after the tournament.

Adidas, meanwhile, boasted of "record" revenue for soccer goods following the World Cup, helped by the fact the German national team won the tournament. CEO Herbert Hainer also pointed out the brand was the most mentioned on social media, a considerable triumph over rival Nike. 

This story originally appeared on Marketing.

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