There seem to be a demand on athletes to be role models by members of the media and fans to some extent. But do the media demand the same thing from international sports governing bodies? The Europeans are up in arms; claiming FIFA, through corruption, handed the 2022 world hosting to Qatar.
It is being said that the scorching heat during summer in Qatar should be enough to deny Qatar’s bid. The choice of playing during the winter is floating around, but the European football governing body is against this option because it would radically affect their league’s schedule.
The European media is also highlighting the Qatar government policy of requiring exit visa for foreign workers. Granting of exit visa is dependent on the approval of the employer. This enables the employer to have total control of the workers. Of course, none of these sanctimonious members of the European press and football body chastised FIFA for allowing the West African federations to get away with its corrupted behaviour during world cup tournaments. These West African federation leaders have consistently ripped off the players’ salaries which led to threats of boycott during the last world cup in Brazil.
There have been times when the West African federations would send watered down teams because players complain about issues with the salary. I find it embarrassing for FIFA when they sit and allow their tournament to lose out on talented teams from West Africa playing without their best players. Somehow this corrupted behaviour gets very little press coverage from the same people crying corruption and foul on FIFA.
Regardless, the point about Qatar and its human rights policy is a valid one. Most countries have an entrance visa and a time for the nonresident or non-citizen to leave. Qatar exit visa policy allows abuse to take place without any recourse for the workers. The fact that employers have to give approval for exit visa puts the foreign workers in a position of bending to the will of the employer. This in effect causes some workers to end up in bondage akin to slavery. With slavery being a historical institutional system in the Arab world, one wonders how FIFA fail to see this beforehand and seek rectification before awarding the world cup to Qatar. The Europeans are more likely using the issue as a means to make their dislike palatable. Whether they are being hypocritical or cynical or not, they are still making a valid point.
With Amnesty International up in arms over the exit visa policy, here comes IAAF awarding the 2019 world athletics championship to Doha, Qatar. It seems as if money through a powerful force makes these two international sports governing bodies blind to issues of human rights and moral standards. FIFA talks about attacking racial abuse but what is happening in Qatar is human rights abuse. How can FIFA expect us to believe in their drive to stamp out racism in football when they are turning a blind eye to human rights abuse? I believe just as athletes are punished for indiscretion the same should be for these international bodies making decisions for monetary gain and ignoring blatant human rights abuse. Many athletes lose sponsors for making bad decisions, often times relating to personal matters; yet sponsors have dropped them.
For example, Tiger Woods was vilified and lost millions in endorsements because he was having extra-marital affairs. In my view, sleeping with others outside of one’s marriage does not rise to the level of modern-day slavery. So I cannot understand the unwillingness of sponsors to strongly voice their opposition without media pressure being applied.
I am curious to see how many sponsors will pull out now that the major European press is all over the Qatar 2022 world cup. Currently, we are seeing more coverage about the Qatar exit visa policy than ever before. Qatar is a very rich country and quite possibly can cover the loss of sponsorship but will this have a negative effect on how fans view FIFA and IAAF in the long run?
It is difficult to convince people that IAAF is fighting against unfair advantage by athletes and yet at the same time ignore higher standards of ethics and morals for the sake of money. I know money is important but is the IAAF action more ethical than that of an athlete that seeks to find an unfair advantage through drugs? Is the IAAF action superior to the athlete that breaks the fairness rule?
As individuals, we can be hypocrites in the way we see things but as leaders of any organization, hypocrisy, when seen by all, will not in any way legitimize leadership. I believe FIFA and IAAF need to have a certain value system enshrine in their bidding process. Seeking to have fairness and a level playing field should be a demand placed on all bidders wishing to host events for the world to see.
This situation should cause Qatar to take a serious look at their foreign workers and visa policy. More importantly, hoping that FIFA and the IAAF realize that they have an ethical and moral responsibility to make sure human rights are not ignored because of the materialistic value of money. As individuals, we all have a price but we should not sit and allow a price to be set on the backs of those who are too weak to defend themselves or effect change.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TrackAlerts.com.