The 2022 Qater World Cup appeared to be on shaky ground ever since it was first announced.
Even when voting took place to select a host country in 2010, there were questions of corruption and bribery when Qatar was chosen over what appeared to be more reasonable bids from the United States and South Korea.
But the heat (no pun intended) has only intensified in the years since, as FIFA agreed to allow the tournament to be staged in winter in order to avoid the extreme temperatures of the Qatari summer.
Information has now emerged about conditions under which laborers constructing venues for the tournament have been working, with the latest incident related to the event leaving bookmakers lowering odds on Qatar losing the right to host the World Cup altogether.
BBC Arrests Cause PR Backfire
Four members of a BBC news team were arrested in Qatar while attempting to report on the conditions of migrant workers who were involved in building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. Ironically, the arrested journalists had actually been invited to the country by the Qatari prime minister’s office as part of a public relations effort that they hoped would soften criticism the country has been facing over the treatment of these workers.
The BBC team was arrested and then interrogated by Qatari officials, who jailed them for two days. According to the Qatari government, the journalists were arrested for trespassing.
“The Government Communications Office invited a dozen reporters to see…some sub-standard labour accommodation as well as some of the newer labour villages,” government officials said in an issues statement. “We gave the reporters free rein to interview whomever they chose and to roam unaccompanied in the labour villages.
“Perhaps anticipating that the government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour. In doing so, they trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries.”
In a response, the BBC said that while they were glad their employees had been released, they were only “engaged in a perfectly proper piece of journalism.”
“The Qatari authorities have made a series of conflicting allegations to justify the detention, all of which the team rejects,” the BBC said. “We are pressing the Qatari authorities for a full explanation and for the return of the confiscated equipment.”
FIFA has said that the incident will be thoroughly investigated.
“Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to FIFA and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves,” they said in a statement.
Increased Calls for World Cup Venue Change
The controversy over worker conditions in Qatar extends far beyond the dwellings in which they live, or the accusations that they may be receiving insufficient food or water. There have been reports that many workers have had identification papers taken away from them by employers and have received little or none of their promised pay.
In addition, hundreds of migrant workers from Nepal, India, and other nations have died since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar. One estimate by the UK’s Guardian said that as many as 4,000 workers could die by the time the World Cup is held.
Between these allegations, the questions over the bidding process, and FIFA’s decision to move the tournament to winter (clashing with most domestic soccer leagues worldwide), there have been numerous calls for governing body to take the event away from Qatar, moving it instead to the United States or another nation that could host the tournament instead.
William Hill, which has offered wagering on the tournament being taken away from Qatar, has now dropped the odds on that bet from 6/1 to 7/2 in light of the most recent incident.
“Despite the fact that construction is well underway, it is not a certainty that the World Cup will take place in Qatar come 2022 and any more PR disasters will only see the odds of it taking place elsewhere tumble even further,” said Joe Crilly, a spokesperson for sports betting outfit.