FIFA has effectively moved the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter, breaking one of the central promises of the country’s bid and enraging the world’s biggest professional teams.
Qatar’s lack of infrastructure and soccer tradition, combined with questions about the country’s human rights record and bribery allegations, made it the most controversial World Cup host nation ever when it was picked back in 2010.
With seven years to go until the 2022 World Cup those initial questions haven’t been answered.
In fact, things seems to be getting worse.
1. A human rights agency estimates that 4,000 construction workers will die building World Cup-related infrastructure.
The International Trade Union Confederation reports that 1,200 migrant workers from Nepal and India died in Qatar between December 2010 and March 2014. The Guardian reports that one Nepalese migrant worker in Qatar died every two days in 2014.
Qatar and FIFA developed a new human rights protocol to deal with the allegations, but human rights watchers say they don’t go far enough.
2. Qatar is allegedly using “modern-day slavery” to build the infrastructure.
The Guardian had a big report about the mistreatment of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar. The workers — some of whom are working on the planned city which will host the 2022 World Cup final — accused their employers of withholding pay, forcing them to work in heat without water, making them live in squalid camps, and confiscating their passports to keep them from leaving the country.
There are 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar, many of whom can’t leave unless their employers grant them an exit visa. An ESPN feature on a worker camp outside Doha showed their awful living conditions.
3. There were widespread bribery allegations around the 2010 vote that gave Qatar the tournament, and several officials who voted later received bans in other corruption scandals.
FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil stepped down in 2012 amid bribery allegations after voting for the Qatar World Cup. After the vote, Teixeira’s 10-year-old daughter allegedly received a $US3.4 million payment from ex-Barcelona FC president Sandro Rosell, the Telegraph reports, who brokered a $US210 million sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation a week after the World Cup vote.
Another FIFA executive committee member, Jack Warner, was once caught on tape talking about accepting bribes. He was banned for life by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2011.
Mohamed bin Hammam, one of the most powerful people in FIFA at the time of the vote, was banned for life for bribery officials before FIFA’s presidential election.
4. The investigator in charge of looking into bribery allegations resigned in protest.
Former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia spent two years investigating corruption allegations related to the 2022 World Cup.
When it came time to release his findings, FIFA decided to not make his report public. Instead, they had a FIFA judge give a brief summary of the investigation. When that summary cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing, Garcia resigned in protest and said his report was whitewashed.
“Today’s decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report,” he said.
5. FIFA’s own internal evaluation slammed Qatar before the vote.
FIFA wrote long, detailed reports on each country’s bid before its executive committee members voted on a 2022 World Cup host city. In each of those reports was an operational risk assessment for things like stadium construction, transportation, and accommodations.
In eight of the nine categories, FIFA gave Qatar either a “medium” of “high” risk rating. The U.S. was “low risk” in eight of nine categories.
In its bid, Qatar said it would hold the tournament in June and July. The FIFA report called that a “potential health risk” before the vote.
6. FIFA moved the tournament to winter, which will decimate the world’s biggest and most important domestic leagues.
During the bidding process, Qatar said they would host the event in summer with the help of space-age cooling technologies.
Less than five years later, those technologies remained untested on a large scale, and the idea has been abandoned. The tournament will now be held in November-December because the 105-degree heat makes it impossible to play in June-July.
Europe’s biggest leagues are outraged. A winter World Cup will force them to suspend play for nearly three months in the middle of the season. The European Club Association demanded that FIFA compensate them for revenue lost during that period, but FIFA is taking a hard line.
7. The 2021 Confederations Cup, an important pre-World Cup test event, can’t be held there because of the heat.
Qatar has to build all of the infrastructure for the World Cup from scratch. Traditionally, the Confederations Cup — an international tournament featuring the best teams from each continent — serves as a test event for this World Cup infrastructure 12 months before the tournament.
FIFA says the tournament will have to be held elsewhere in Asia because a winter Confederations Cup would disrupt domestic leagues and it’s impossible to play a major soccer tournament in the Qatari summer.
8. There are no World Cup-ready stadiums there.
All of the venues need to be built from scratch. As we saw with the record $US50-billion Sochi Olympics, building these things from scratch is an incredibly expensive and unpredictable enterprise.
9. Including supporting infrastructure, it’s going to cost $US200 billion — four times the amount Russia spent on the historically expensive Sochi Olympics — to stage the World Cup in Qatar.
10. Entire cities that are necessary to host the event don’t exist yet.
The country doesn’t have all the stadiums, hotels, and other infrastructure to the host the event, so they have to build it all from scratch before 2022.
The city that will host the final, Lusail City, doesn’t exist yet. It will be built at a cost of $US45 billion. For comparison, it cost South Africa $US3.5 billion to host the 2010 World Cup.
11. Qatar is already reducing the number of stadiums it promised to build.
Originally, Qatar planned to build 10 world-class stadiums in a 25km-wide radius.
That is the height of waste.
It’s like building 10 Cowboys Stadiums in Dallas and only using them for two weeks. Now there are reports that they’re scaling back the number of total stadiums to eight amid rising costs.
12. Homosexuality is illegal there.
While Qatar has more liberal policies than many Middle Eastern countries, it still has strict anti-gay laws. FIFA president Sepp Blatter recommended that gay men who want to go to the World Cup should “refrain from any sexual activities.”
13. It will get drowned out by football in America.
The World Cup is the only time when mainstream America pays attention to soccer. In November-December, it will face competition from the NFL, NBA, and college football.
14. They probably won’t sell beer in the stadiums.
There are select hotels and bars in Doha where you’re allowed to drink. But you can’t have alcohol or be drunk in public. It will be the most sober World Cup ever.