Norwegian club to lobby at federation AGM for boycott of Saudi Arabia 2034

March 15 – Norwegian club Frederikstad have voted to pressure their national federation to boycott the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia that FIFA is expected to award to the Arab Kingdom this year because there are no other bidding candidates. 

Norwegian fans have mobilised again to put the hosting of the World Cup by countries with a tainted human rights record in the Middle East on the agenda.

At the annual meeting of Frederikstad, a leading Norwegian club returning to the top flight after years in the wilderness, Jan Fredrik Hagen represented the voice of supporters and said that “everything we learned about human rights violations in Qatar also applies to Saudi Arabia.”

“Fredrikstad FC must take a clear stance towards the Norwegian Football Federation against the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia. The club must either itself put forward a proposal at the annual FA meeting that Norway should refrain from participating in the championship or support similar proposals from other clubs,” stated a proposal that was adopted following a 38-36 vote.

“We are not saying that we will not take a clear stand against the World Cup in Saudi Arabia but we want some time to get more information about recommended measures before we decide on a boycott,” said club chairman Jostein Lunde.

In the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, Norwegian club Tromso club spoke out against human rights abuses in Qatar, prompting a wider debate in Norway and beyond, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino saying that migrant workers gained pride from hard work. At a news conference, Infantino infamously said that he felt “like a migrant worker”.

Ultimately, the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) voted against a boycott of Qatar at an extraordinary assembly following an enquiry by an NFF committee. The NFF tasked chairwoman Lise Klaveness to deliver a speech at the FIFA Congress, which she did, highlighting labour rights issues faced by migrant workers and discrimination of the LGBT+ community.

The speech prompted anger from local organisers and the FIFA leadership.

Hagen dismissed the notion of bringing to life another committee to investigate the specifics of a World Cup in Saudi Arabia, something the club chairman referred to following a previous conversation with Klaveness.

“A new committee from the NFF, which will look at recommended measures against the Saudi Arabia World Cup in 2034, is in my eyes a waste of the resources of club boards across the country,” said Hagen.

In its 2023 World Report, Human Rights Watch wrote of Saudi Arabia: “Authorities launder their reputation, stained by a deplorable human rights record, through funding lavish sports and entertainment institutions, figures, and events.”

“It is less than three years since the Qatar committee was appointed to investigate the same things that the board now wants to be investigated again,” continued Hagen. “The leaders in FIFA are the same and the human rights violations are just as extensive, if not worse in Saudi Arabia.”

After the World Cup, FIFA pivoted directly towards Saudi Arabia, staging the 2023 Club World Cup in Jeddah and presenting the Arab Kingdom as the sole bidding nation for the 2034 World Cup. That tournament will feature a 48-team format, opening up the increased possibility for Norway to qualify.

The Scandinavian country last played in the World Cup in 1998 in France when it qualified to the knock-out rounds from a group with Brazil, Scotland and Morocco.

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