November 1 – Leading human rights activist group Human Rights Watch has accused FIFA of ignoring its own rules in the process of awarding the hosts of the 2030 and 2034 World Cups.
Spain, Morocco, and Portugal are staging 2030 with the first three matches in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay at the start of the competition to mark the tournament’s centenary. That will be followed by Saudi Arabia staging 2034 by default after Australia said it would not be bidding.
Human Rights Watch cited Article Seven of FIFA’s human rights policy which states that “where the national context risks undermining FIFA’s ability to ensure respect for internationally recognised human rights, FIFA will constructively engage with the relevant authorities and other stakeholders and make every effort to uphold its international human rights responsibilities.”
Human Rights Watch’s director of global initiatives Minky Worden said: “In Saudi Arabia, independent human rights monitoring is not possible due to government repression. This makes it effectively impossible for FIFA to carry out the ongoing monitoring and inspection of human rights its human rights policy requires.”
Amnesty International has also called for human rights in Saudi Arabia to be scrutinised.
Steve Cockburn, the charity’s head of economic and social justice, commented: “FIFA must now make clear how it expects hosts to comply with its human rights policies. It must also be prepared to halt the bidding process if serious human rights risks are not credibly addressed.
“The best chance for FIFA to obtain binding guarantees to protect workers’ rights, ensure freedom of expression and prevent discrimination linked to the World Cup is during the host selection process – not after the hosts have been confirmed and tournament preparation has begun.”
There is another key principle at stake here too. Allowing the FIFA Council to unilaterally choose World Cup hosts makes a mockery of the decision some years ago to empower Fifa’s entire membership to make that decision.
The change was designed to stave of corruption and vote rigging within the now defunct executive committee – which the Council replaced.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is said to be close to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and having one sole bidder for 2034, 11 years ahead of the tournament, raises a number of legitimate questions about FIFA’s selection process. It will be the second edition in four that the World Cup will be hosted entirely in a Gulf state.
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