According to the New York Times, Qatar has reportedly paid fans around the world to attend the 2022 World Cup this month.
The fans will reportedly be treated to an all-inclusive trip that includes free plane tickets, free match tickets and free accommodation. However, Qatar also reportedly asked those fans to sign contracts requiring them to sing chants, post positive reports on social media and report posts critical of Qatar.
Here are two excerpts provided to The Times of what Qatar expects from those signed up to travel to the World Cup:
“We’re not asking you to [be] a mouthpiece for Qatar, but it would obviously not be appropriate for you to denigrate Qatar, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (or any other relevant entity in connection with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022) or the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. We know you have your own opinions and styles, so based on the facts we present to you, share them in a way that suits you.
“You agree to report any abusive, degrading or abusive comments to the SC and, if possible, to take a screenshot of those comments and then promptly delete them. All other comments, whether provocative or celebratory, regarding the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 may of course remain publicly viewable at their own discretion.”
Qatar downplayed this report. Ahsan Mansoor, Qatar’s director of fan engagement, told the Times: “There is no obligation to promote or do anything.”
“They have no formal or contractual connection with the World Cup,” Mansoor added, “and they are not ambassadors for it.”
How many fans are paid?
The Associated Press also reported that up to 1,600 fans have been recruited into this program, with representatives from all 32 qualifying teams, and part of their deal includes a song at the opening ceremony.
How did Qatar manage to find people from all countries at the World Cup? The country’s organizing group — also known as the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy — said it corresponds through a “Fan Leader Network” in 59 countries.
This is partly true: The Times reported that the committee asked national federations around the world to get in touch with the best supporters’ groups in their respective countries. But it sounds like the manner in which Qatar asked was vague at best and duplicitous at worst.
England reportedly added a registration form for this program on behalf of Qatar on their official fan club website, but only later found out it was an expense-paying trip.
“We have been told that this is an opportunity to engage with fans from all participating nations to ensure the supporters’ voice is heard clearly in the planning of the World Cup and that many international football associations are addressed,” said the English Football Association in a statement. “We no longer participated in the program [since posting the sign-up]and no view of the ‘code of conduct’ or the terms and conditions.”
This isn’t the first time Qatar has paid fans to attend sporting events. Qatar reportedly busted migrant workers and children to fill empty seats at the Khalifa International Stadium in 2019 during the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Qatar controversies continue
Again and again there are controversies about the World Cup in Qatar.
The exploitation of migrant workers was also the biggest scandal leading up to the World Cup. There have been misleading reports of how many migrants have died building World Cup stadiums, and talk of abuse and pseudo-slavery.
Lusail Stadium, an 80,000-seat venue, reportedly received poor reviews from fans attending a game in September. The supervisors at the time said the stadium didn’t supply enough water, didn’t have enough bathrooms or good air conditioning. Fans also said public transport to and from the stadium was poor.
Some LGBTQ fans are also afraid to travel this year because the country’s laws criminalize homosexuality, despite claims by FIFA and Qatar’s Supreme Committee that “everyone is welcome”.
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