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UEFA working group on workers’ rights makes first visit to World Cup 2022 hosts

UEFA delegation visits Qatar and makes initial recommendations after fruitful meeting with organisers and stakeholders.

An image of the  Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, where seven World Cup matches are scheduled.
An image of the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, where seven World Cup matches are scheduled. Getty/FIFA

In May, UEFA set up a dedicated working group to gain a better or further understanding regarding the issues surrounding human rights in Qatar up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and beyond.

The working group has been set up to understand human rights in Qatar and make any recommendations back to UEFA. It conducted its first visit to the FIFA World Cup host country on 24 August 2021. The visit included meetings with representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Builders and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Qatar Football Association, as well as migrant workers. The delegation also visited the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, where seven World Cup matches are scheduled.

Michele Uva, UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility Director, said: “In our initial meetings we agreed that the working group aims to consolidate the commitment and subsequent input to share with the organisers from a UEFA perspective. We wish to understand the impact the World Cup is having regarding human rights and labour rights. All of us agree that football has the potential to create meaningful change in these areas and that’s why we feel it is our duty that we engage strongly in this discussion. This first visit to Qatar follows three online meetings and helps us to better understand the situation with the Qatar authorities and to be able to evaluate potential progress and highlight future steps in the human rights journey. We thank the Qatar authorities and in particular the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for their openness, transparency, and commitment to dialogue they offered us. We are sure that together we will contribute to improve the legacy of this event.”

In summarizing the visit, Gijs de Jong, member of the UEFA working group and General Secretary of the Royal Netherlands Football Association,said: “It is clear that Qatar has made significant positive progress with human rights legislation in the last three years. There is no doubt this progress has accelerated as a result of the FIFA World Cup being awarded. The challenge is the legislation is not yet universally adopted, and whilst efforts are being made, there is a need for further work. We believe the working group and the European associations can play a supporting role in this, as well as in the outline of further development, and hope to do so through continued engagement and dialogue.”

Following the meetings, the working group has formed initial recommendations, firstly looking to recommended minimum standards for federations to adopt for any supplier agreement in Qatar. This will include the suggestion that associations should request that any supplier contracted for services in Qatar should have strong consultation with their workers, through commitees and workforce forums – this is an initiative already started by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and that has been taken on by the government in the form of 'joint committees' demonstrating the impact of the World Cup.

A second recommendation focuses on the confirmation of further visits to Qatar, to strengthen the exchange and collaboration with the organisers and local organisations. This would focus on supporting sustainable development, while also ensuring that the European football community can have a direct channel to information and updates on the situation and development within Qatar and the region.

As a final suggestion, the working group would like to initiate a review of how football might be able to support the establishment of workers rights centres in Qatar. These workers rights centres would aim to ensure that services and training continue to stand available to migrant workers after the World Cup has been hosted.

In addition, the working group also identified the need of engaging European media in future visits, to further provide a direct insight into the progress made over the last years. It is believed this would be key to bridge identified gaps in information, and ensure there is dialogue between institutions on site and the media channels connected to European football.

The working group acknowledges the standard of workers’ welfare for workers on Supreme Committee projects, and any support that third parties have provided in that respect. It recognises the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy as well as the Qatar Football Association as partners working toward potential implementation of any recommendation and as the direct relationship holders for discussion of recommendations with UEFA in Qatar.

The next steps will see engagement across European associations, and Zoran Lakovic, UEFA director of national associations, said: “The working group will ensure to share information with all member associations which are not part of the group, and at the same time invite everyone for further dialogue on an individual basis, if requested. It is important to have this exchange with the national associations, who can also make sure their coaches and players are aware of the initiatives of the working group.”

The participants engaging in the visit onsite or through virtual arrangements were Michele Uva, UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility Director, and representatives from eight national associations: Dominique Blanc (Switzerland), Mark Bullingham (England), Ekaterina Fedyshina (Russia), Florence Hardouin (France), Gjis de Jong (Netherlands), Håkan Sjöstrand (Sweden), Terje Svendsen (Norway), and Heike Ullrich (Germany). Thierry Favre (UEFA deputy director of the national associations division), Sara Holmgren (Diversity and Inclusion Officer), and FIFA representative Andreas Graf (Head of Human Rights & Anti-Discrimination) also took part in the sessions.

Further visits are planned between now and the tournament starting in November 2022. There are also plans to visit in 2023, to examine the legacy the World Cup leaves behind.