The 2022 FIFA World Cup, the international football championship held every four years and contested by 32 national teams, will be held in Qatar between November 21 and December 18.
This makes it the first world cup to be held in the Arab world and the second to be held in Asia, after South Korea and Japan co-hosted in 2002. The matches are unusually being held in the winter months as temperatures can reach heights of 40°C and even 50°C in summer in Qatar.
However, the leadup to the event has seen much contention regarding corruption allegations, climate policy, and human rights. This has made Qatar 2022 one of the most controversial tournaments in World Cup history.
Questions of the legitimacy of Qatar’s hosting were first raised in 2011
In 2010, Qatar obtained the rights to the World Cup by winning a ballot of FIFA’s executive members.
In May 2011, allegations of corruption against senior FIFA officials raised questions over the legitimacy of the 2022 World Cup, with Qatar accused of paying officials millions of dollars in bribes to host the event.
However, after a two-year investigation, Qatar was cleared of any wrongdoing, but chief investigator Michael Garcia has since said FIFA’s report on his inquiry contains many errors. Former FIFA chairman, Sepp Blatter, who is currently being trialed for fraud, embezzlement, and other corruption charges, has more recently revealed that Qatar cheated to win the rights, bribing officials with a rule-breaking collusion deal, and exerting political pressure on ex-UEFA President Michael Platini.
Experts have predicted that Qatar’s climate promises will fall short
Qatar’s economy is oil-based. The country has one of the highest per capita carbon footprint rates in the world and its climate targets fall behind many other rich nations.
For the World Cup, Qatar has built seven new stadiums, an entire new city where the final match will be staged and over 100 new hotels, new roads, and the new Lusail City project, which will be home to the Lusail Stadium. Qatar 2022 organisers said the tournament would be the first carbon neutral World Cup, meaning it would have a negligible or net-zero impact on the climate, confirming this on World Environment Day.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) June 5, 2022
However, on May 31, 2022, Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a not-for-profit organisation that works to improve climate policies, released a report that objectively assessed the credibility of Qatar’s “carbon neutrality” claim. According to the CMW report authors, Qatar’s projected emissions have been underestimated:
“Our investigation of the available evidence casts serious doubts on this claim, which likely underestimates the tournament’s true emissions levels and climate impact. This is not a harmless exercise, as it misleads players, fans, sponsors and the public into believing that their (potential) involvement in the event will come at no cost to the climate”
While Qatar organisers estimate that the World Cup will emit 3.6 million mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e), CMW finds that this under-represents the tournament’s actual footprint. This is because the footprint of stadiums was calculated spread over the stadium’s entire lifetime, which the report describes as “problematic” as the stadiums have been constructed specifically for the World Cup.
As such, they may not be used much in the future in a small country that only had one major stadium before it was awarded the World Cup, and are unlikely to be the most efficient venues for the community services post-tournament.
The CMW report also finds that the carbon emissions from the construction of the stadiums might be underestimated in Qatar’s analysis, and could in fact be as much as eight times higher.
Climate mitigation measures in the World Cup plan included building a reusable stadium from shipping containers, solar-powered stadium air conditioning, and growing a large turf and tree nursery irrigated by treated sewage water to absorb CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. CMW acknowledged the value of the first two schemes, but shed doubts on the latter scheme as unlikely to have permanent carbon offsetting effect in an artificial space in the middle of the desert. Climate experts often highlight the limitations of offsetting projects such as tree planting as having overstated impacts.
Organisers also pledged to compensate for the remaining emissions by establishing a new carbon credit standard, Global Carbon Council (GCC), to offset the event’s emissions. Using the GCC system, Qatar was meant to sell at least 1.8 million credits for the World Cup’s emissions, but currently, the GCC standard only has three projects made publicly visible, and has issued just over 130,000 credits.
Qatar Airways will also operate over 160 extra flights per day to bring spectators from the neighbouring countries to Doha and back each day. This has been criticised by environmental groups for again going against the tournament’s supposed environmental targets.
In summary, as the author of the CMW report Gilles Dufrasne concludes:
“It would be great to see the climate impact of FIFA World Cups being drastically reduced but the carbon neutrality claim that is being made is simply not credible.”
A spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee, which is organising the World Cup, said the country’s commitment to carbon-neutrality by investing in green projects should be “recognised, rather than criticised,”. CMW’s criticisms of the tree and lawn nursery and GCC credit system were countered in claims that the lawn farm will only feature plants endemic to the region that can survive drought, and so will have permanent effect, and that the GCC credit system was approved by multiple bodies prior to it’s initiation, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency.
A FIFA spokesperson also responded to criticisms, saying that FIFA has “been making efforts to tackle those (environmental) impacts” and “maximise the positive impacts of its iconic tournament.”
Qatar has also been criticised for its treatment of foreign workers
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Qatar of poorly treating foreign workers, arguing that the construction of World Cup facilities relied on forced labour and that the deaths of thousands of migrant workers resulted from human rights abuses and careless and inhumane working conditions.
According to an investigation by The Guardian, many workers were denied food and water, had their identity papers taken away from them, and were not paid on time or at all, making some of them in effect slaves. The investigation found that by 2021, 6,500 World Cup migrant workers have already died in Qatar since 2010, and that a further 4,000 workers may die due to lax safety and other causes by the time the competition is held.
Qatari government officials disputed these figures, claiming that they are proportionate to the population size and that they are “non-work related.”
However, between 2015 and 2021, labour reforms were made in Qatar that significantly improved working conditions, including a minimum wage for all workers and the removal of the kafala system of labour sponsorship which was prevalent in Qatar. Under thus system, workers were bound through contract to a kafeel (sponsor) who controls their immigration status, contract terms, wages, and accommodation.
Nevertheless, player representative organisation Fifpro said that “workers continue to be subjected to abusive practices” in Qatar, where “workers in the most vulnerable positions from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Pakistan and some African countries still fear retaliation if they denounce exploitation, unpaid wages and long working hours.”
There is also concern among migrants that when the limelight on Qatar leading up to the World Cup fades, working conditions could worsen.
In preparation for the #WorldCup2022, thousands of workers faced and continue to face wage theft and unsafe working and living conditions.
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) June 13, 2022
Qatar is also accused of human rights abuses regarding homosexuality
Same sex relationships are illegal in Qatar. As Amnesty International explains, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community “continue to face discrimination in law and practice.”
While Qatar World Cup Organising Committee Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi stated that “everyone is welcome,” he maintained that Qatar will not relax its laws on homosexuality.
This has met widespread concern from the LGBTQ+ community, and many others. Some of the Welsh national football team’s staff and fans have said they will boycott the tournament due to Qatar’s stance on gay rights and German football official Oliver Bierhoff told German newspapers he was unhappy that homosexuality was still illegal in Qatar, questioning why a country with these laws is able to host the World Cup and noting FIFA’s failure in not pushing for changes before awarding the hosting of the tournament.
Hey @FIFAcom don't repeat the mistakes of #Qatar2022! Choose a host city & country that will respect #labour and #LGBTI rights! #WorldCup2022 #WorldCup2026 #football ⚽️ #HumanRights @ILOQatar @QatarLabour_GE @qatarlabour @FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/D3tHPwrHut
— LGBTI Workers (@lgbtiworkers) June 10, 2022
Under Article 136 of Qatar’s Penal Code, anyone at the tournament protesting any of the aforementioned issues – corruption, climate damage, worker treatment or human rights – could face a five-year prison sentence or a fine of 100,00 Qatari riyals ($25,000) for intending to “harm national interests” or “stir up public opinion.”
Whilst Qatari authorities’ appeal for outsiders to respect their “conservative” culture doesn’t seem unreasonable, with Al-Thawadi maintaining that “the nature of these tournaments is it allows people from different walks of life to be able to experience and understand different cultures,” the issues arise when these contradict internationally agreed human rights and when the fans end up feeling unsafe as a result.
When asked if the 2022 tournament was “Sports washing,” the practice of a government using large sporting events to improve their tarnished reputation, Al-Thawadi replied that “that could not be further from the truth.”
All in all, Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup has opened a whole host of issues. The current cost of living crisis poses further questions as to how many people will even be able to afford to go. With just under six months until the opening match, there is still much uncertainty surrounding the tournament. Hopefully international pressure will translate to Qatar’s laws being reconciled with inclusivity and anti-discrimination.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The Lusail Stadium in Qatar. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.