ICU Building

A Statement on the FIFA World Cup

Thursday 24 November 2022 14:50

In October, the Union discussed the issues surrounding the FIFA World Cup hosted in Qatar and the conflict with our organisational views. We agreed that Qatar's deplorable abuse of human rights and treatment of minority groups does not align with our values.

Our view is that football fans should never have been put in the position to choose between supporting their national team in the World Cup and supporting minority groups' fight for equality, or workers' rights to safety and fair treatment. A large number of our members want to support their teams, and want to do so in our venues, which provide a safer and more inclusive environment than many alternatives. This was at the forefront of the Union’s decision to show the World Cup, given the numerous incidents of violence that have taken place during the showing of matches in venues across London over the years We therefore took the decision to show the games and release a statement confronting these issues.

Over the weekend, we have seen a number of actions taken by both the Qatari authorities and FIFA that illustrate their disregard for these issues, and have been contacted by a number of students who have shared their view on the matter. We want to use our platform to educate and advocate against FIFA’s decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while providing a safe space for our students to support their teams.

What is happening in Qatar?

In 2010, it was decided by FIFA that the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar. There was a lot of initial disapproval, with Qatar having never qualified to play in the World Cup, and it being the second smallest country to ever host.

Since then, key concerns have surrounded Qatar’s poor state of human rights. The Guardian has suggested at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar over the 12 years since they were awarded the World Cup tournament [1], with workers facing abuse including wage theft, dangerous working and living conditions, and physical and sexual abuse [2]. Women were granted the right to vote in 1999, but are still paid 25-50% less than their male counterparts [3], and can be imprisoned for up to seven years for having sex outside of marriage [4]. Qatar has no civil rights laws addressing sexual orientation or gender identity, with punishment up to three years in prison for acts of homosexuality [5].

As the first game kicked off this weekend, further developments occurred which illustrated the disregard Qatari authorities and FIFA have for the issues presented by their fans:

  • FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke for an hour in defence of Qatar on the eve of the World Cup, comparing the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community, migrant workers, and women in Qatar to bullying he faced for having red hair [6].
  • FIFA announced players wearing the One Love band would face a sanction, resulting in European nations including England and Wales pulling out from their agreements to wear them in solidarity [7].
  • Welsh fans had their rainbow hats confiscated before the Wales vs USA match on Monday 21st, despite promises from Qatar that rainbow flags would be allowed by attendees [8].

What can I do to help?

There are many organisations that we can show support for and actions that we can take to show solidarity with the communities impacted by Qatar’s poor record of human rights. Support can be shown through donations; volunteering; and sharing their message.

Support charities

Stonewall: Founded in 1989, Stonewall is one of the largest UK charities focused on LGBTQ+ rights. They have been involved in every breakthrough for the community since their founding, and continue to campaign for improved rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals globally.

The Albert Kennedy Trust: AKT supports young LGBTQ+ people in the UK who are facing homelessness or hostile living environments. They work to provide safe emergency accommodation and find education, training, and employment. Currently they have nationally available online services, and centres available in the North of England and London.

Peter Tatchell Foundation: The Peter Tatchell Foundation promotes and protects human rights in the UK and internationally. Peter Tatchell protested against Qatar’s criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people outside the National Museum in Doha a month before the games started, resulting in him and his colleague being detained for nearing an hour .

Amnesty International: Amnesty International uses research and campaigns to fight human right abuses globally. They have been especially critical of Qatar over the last decade, having launched multiple petitions surrounding labour abuse and LGBTQ+ rights.

Take action

Send an open letter to FIFA to provide financial remedy to the victims of human rights abuses in Qatar and their families with Human Rights Watch.

Sign the petition from Amnesty International to campaign for FIFA and Qatar to compensate migrant workers.

Sign the petition ‘Love is Not a Crime’, led by Dr Nas Mohamed, the first publicly gay Qatari.

Where can I get support?

We understand that this can be a difficult time for members of our community. The following services are here for you if you need extra support during this time.

LGBTQ+ Network

International Network

Gender Equality Network

Student Support Zone

Nightline for confidential listening & support, available 18:00 – 02:00 every night of term for students in London.

NHS 24 hour urgent mental health helpline.