FIFA sponsors urged to make football body act on damning Amnesty International Qatar report

Football World Cup sponsors are under pressure to encourage tournament organiser FIFA to act on alleged poor treatment of construction workers at 2022 host country Qatar, following a damning new report from Amnesty International.

Amnesty International: Group alleges widespread abuse of World Cup construction workers
Amnesty International: Group alleges widespread abuse of World Cup construction workers

In the report, published today, Amnesty said it had evidence of "systematic abuses" by Qatari organisers such as forced labour of migrant workers on the country's Khalifa Stadium.

The abuses found include: workers living in "squalid and cramped accommodation"; non-payment of workers; passports being confiscated; and threats for complaining about working conditions.

Amnesty said: "Amnesty International is calling on major World Cup sponsors like Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to pressure FIFA to address the exploitation of workers on Khalifa Stadium, and disclose its plan for preventing further abuses in World Cup projects."

FIFA issued a statement this morning in response to the allegations, emphasising that "challenges remain" but saying the organising association was "on the right track".

Head of sustainability Federico Addiechi said: "We are fully aware of the risks facing construction workers in Qatar and we are confident that the measures taken by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy are the appropriate ones and have already improved the situation for migrant workers working on FIFA World Cup construction sites.

"We closely monitor developments and address issues through our regular contact with the Supreme Committee. We have also met with a number of key stakeholders to discuss the best way forward. Of course many challenges remain, but we are on the right track and committed to continue improving, to further contribute to the protection of workers’ rights at the FIFA World Cup stadium projects."

PRWeek contacted  Coca-Cola, Adidas and McDonald’s – the three firms named in the Amnesty International report – for comment. The latter two firms have yet to comment, but Coca-Cola said in a statement: "The Coca-Cola Company has a strong commitment to human rights, and we have had many discussions with FIFA regarding workers’ conditions at FIFA-related construction projects. We will continue to press for concrete actions to identify and mitigate human rights challenges associated with any FIFA events."

There is a precedent for World Cup sponsors speaking out to encourage FIFA to act. In October, four sponsors – Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser owner AB InBev – all issued statements urging then president Sepp Blatter to stand down after news emerged that he faced criminal proceedings, partly related to a "disloyal payment" made to UEFA present Michel Platini in 2011.

Human rights allegations are among the most crucial issues to be dealt with for Gianni Infantino after he succeeded Blatter as FIFA president earlier in March.

This article was updated on Thursday evening with comment from The Coca-Cola Company.

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