Corporate governance is clearly not Fifa’s strongest suit but surely it should be one of the defining attributes of a ruling body that makes such far-reaching and financially significant decisions. After all they are responsible for the largest sports event on the planet, not some shonky car boot sale or shabby school fete. Despite the road to Qatar being littered with a mixture of s**t and corruption emanating from some of his charges, Blatter appears impregnable as he sails along the surface of the murkiest waters with seemingly not a care in the world.
Blatter will point to how Qatar 2022 has broken the mould for many reasons with a series of unique attributes. It is by some margin the smallest country to be awarded the World Cup, with a population of just over 2 million. It is the first country to host the World Cup that have never qualified for the tournament (apart from the original tournament in Uruguay in 1930). At it’s current ranking of 101, it is the first host country to be ranked outside the top 100 teams internationally. And 2022 will be the first time the World Cup has been held in the Arab world and also the first time that homosexuality is deemed illegal within the host country.
Blatter’s response to the issue of sexuality was, as ever, as blunt as it was boorish, when he suggested that gay football fans should ‘refrain from sexual activities.’ This was apparently meant to be a joke but it backfired and he was forced to apologise for causing offence. What is certainly not a joke is the treatment of workers involved in the construction of the stadiums, transport and general infrastructure projects. The Guardian uncovered in its 2013 investigation that there has already been an horrific toll on lives with forty-four Nepalese workers dying in between 4 June and 8 August 2013 alone. ‘The International Trade Union Conference has warned that at least 4,000 migrant workers could die in the construction frenzy leading up to the 2022 World Cup,’ the Guardian reported.
Qatar’s appalling human rights record with regards to its migrant workers was clearly no barrier to the success of its bid either and whilst the decision is based on sporting credentials, such a catastrophic loss of lives cannot be ignored. Not only does Fifa’s Executive Committee have some serious questions to answer but it also has some blood on its hands. Surely not even Blatter could turn a blind eye to such widespread and damaging abuse but onwards they plough, seemingly oblivious to the demands of common sense and decency.
Indeed he was prepared to travel to Qatar to find out for himself but this fact-finding mission was postponed after the announcement of labour law reforms by the Qatari Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs that according to an official statement from Fifa ‘confirm the expressed commitment of the country’s authorities to improve the welfare of migrant workers and to use the hosting of the 2022 Fifa World Cup as a catalyst for positive social change.’ Blatter tweeted ‘Pleased with news from Qatar. Big step in the right direction for sustainable change for workers’ welfare.’ Oh well that’s all right then, we can all rest assured now that has been sorted.
If by any chance the powers that be do decide to move the World Cup to another country with an inappropriate climate, similar population, complete absence of football pedigree and p**s poor human rights record then let’s get ready for Guinea-Bissau being next in line for 2022. Or perhaps Blatter’s horizons might stretch even further so do not be surprised by a bid from Mars next time round, as long as they can sort out the air conditioning.
One might imagine that after all this scandal and negative supposition that Blatter might be a little fatigued by all the wrangling and be contemplating slipping off for a quiet retirement, having previously stipulated that he would be standing down in 2015. But far from it, Sepp is now determined to stand for another term of office, his fifth, which would take him to twenty years at the helm. Heaven help us as to what he might come up with next but whatever it is, it will have to go some to match the idiocy of the Qatar 2022 decision.