Charities and the World Cup: Money shredding, human rights and sports for good

Charities have been heavily involved in campaigning around the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which looks to be the most controversial in the event’s long history.

Human rights abuses have topped the World Cup agenda, most notably around the treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ+ community in the Gulf State.

Charities are understandably raising awareness of these issues and hoping the event’s global spotlight will help improve lives.

Meanwhile, sport for good charities, involved in sports-based community programmes, are looking to use the World Cup to promote ways sport can tackle hardship.

Here we look at the campaigning charities are involved in, including highlighting human rights issues and ensuring sport for good’s messages are received by the spectacle’s worldwide audience.

Human rights issues

In the run up to the event a major concern has been the region’s Kafala system of sponsored labour. This gives private citizens and companies in Qatar total control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status and arose from a combination of high demand for cheap labour strong supply of migrant workers, mainly from Europe, in search of work.

Under this system construction workers and domestic servants face difficulties changing jobs and ensuring they are paid.

Deaths of migrant construction workers is another concern. Although there are no official figures, it has been variously reported by charities and media outlets that hundreds and possibly thousands have died.

Salary theft by employers with no recourse in justice is rife, according to Amnesty International, one of 20 human rights charities and organisations to have written an open letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino calling on the global footballing body to work with the Qatari government, trade unions and civil society to tackle human rights abuses in the country.

FIFA is also being called on to set aside £372m in prize money to pay the families of workers who have died, settle unpaid wages, and reimburse any fees migrant workers may have incurred. The money should also be used to protect workers’ rights in the future, states their letter.

Among others signing are Human Rights Watch, Eqidem and the Nepal based Asian Human Rights and Culture Development Forum.

Just days before the start of the tournament Amnesty highlighted six key areas of concern around Qatar:

• Freedom of expression – concerns have been raised around “abusive laws to stifle those who are critical of the state”. This includes arbitrary detention.

• Freedom of association – Migrant workers are barred from forming of joining trade unions and there are “repercussions” when peaceful demonstrations are held. In August 2022 hundreds of migrant workers were arrested and deported after protesting about wages being withheld.

• Employment rights – Forced labour continues in Qatar, where workers have to pay “extortionate recruitment fees to secure jobs”. It takes workers months, or even years, to repay the debt, “which ultimately traps them in cycles of exploitation”.

• Unfair trials – Amnesty International has documented a number of cases of unfair trials, with defendants subject to torture and sentences handed down based on coerced ‘confessions’.

• Women’s rights – Women face discrimination under the guardianship system. This is where their lives are the responsibility of a male guardian, either a family member or their husband. Women in Qatar need permission from their guardian for a raft of everyday decisions.

• LGBTQ+ rights - Same sex relationships between men are an offence in Qatar, punishable by up to seven year’s imprisonment.

Stonewall raises awareness of LGBTQ+ issues…

Stonewall is among charities to raise specific concerns over the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar.

During the event it is looking to raise awareness by filling a virtual stadium of supporters of LGBTQ+ issues “to shine a light on the injustices that our communities face in Qatar”.

Its Proud Stadium campaign aims to gather 80,000 signatories protesting about human rights in Qatar to “send a powerful message to global leaders”.

…with help from Joe Lycett

Comedian Joe Lycett raised awareness of LGBTQ+ issues at the World Cup when he appeared to have shredded £10,000 this month in protest at former England football star David Beckham’s involvement with Qatar in promoting the event.

Lycett later revealed that real money was not shredded and was stunt, to raise awareness of human rights issues in the region. The money had been donated to Stonewall and inclusion charity SportAllies.

Street Child World Cup

Sports for good charities are highlighting the importance of robust human rights as well as their key messages around promoting the power of sport in improving lives.

Among the most prominent is the charity Street Child United’s Street Child World Cup, which has been run alongside each FIFA World Cup finals since the tournament was staged in South Africa in 2010.

This global street for good competition involves street children, seeks to challenge negative perceptions of children living in poverty and raise awareness of children’s rights.

For the Qatar World up an eight-day competition was held in October and involved 28 teams of young people representing 25 countries.

Young people involved, including teams representing refugee children, also took part in a general assembly to discuss and develop a document around their rights, called The Qatar Commitment.

This includes stipulating that “every child has the right to be a full citizen, regardless of whether they have a home or an address, and that they should be able to obtain papers with their correct legal identity”.

The event for this year’s World Cup was organised in partnership with host nation-based NGO the Qatar Foundation, which funds research, community development and education initiatives.

Charity single

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is the first time in 64 years that Wales are taking part in the tournament. To mark the occasion singer songwriter Andrew Dowling and Wales football fans have recorded a charity single called We’ve Got The Red Wall.

Money raised from its sale will go to Wales football supporters’ charity Gol Cymru, which supports disadvantaged young people in countries the team plays in.

Football fans with sight loss

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is using the World Cup as a hook to raise awareness of the enjoyment people with sight loss have in experiencing sport.

This has been through a video of people with sight loss sharing their memories of their favourite World Cup, through the #SeeSportDifferently campaign. Meanwhile, another video sees fans with sight loss share how they will be following football at the event.

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