Qatari Corruption Necessitates World Cup Boycott
The time for solidarity is now. Money and power are not unfamiliar bedfellows to corruption, just like football is no stranger to racism, sexism, homophobia and hate crimes. In the build up to the World Cup in Qatar, more and more people are boycotting the event due to the country’s horrendous track record on human rights and anti-LGBT laws.
Qatar has, unsurprisingly, spent more money on gifts and trips for MPs in the past year than any other country, worth a staggering £251,208, which included stays in luxury hotels, business flights and attendance at horse racing events. The UAE is the second highest foreign government donor, and even their £37,661 in gifts pales in comparison to the corruption oozing from those gifted by Qatar.
34 MPs declared 40 donations from Qatar in the past year to October 2022. Transparency International, a global group against corruption, said how it was extremely concerning that MPs were accepting thousands of pounds’ worth of gifts from governments with questionable human rights records. There have been worries that this could lead to undue influence, which we have already seen in action. Amongst those gifted, MPs suddenly spoke in favour of Qatar and downplayed issues against the country.
Alun Cairns, Tory MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, praised Qatar’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after receiving over £9,000 in donations this year. David Mundell, Tory MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, downplayed the appalling LGBT track record of Qatar, after receiving over £7,000 of gifts. He mentioned that we should instead focus on the same issues in the UK first before concerning ourselves with other countries.
James Cleverly, Tory MP for Braintree, was rightly criticised for telling gay football fans that they should be “respectful” in Qatar when attending the World Cup, since the country criminalises homosexuality, which can lead to up to seven years in prison. Labour called these comments “shockingly tone-deaf”. In the wake of this, a survey from Public First for More in Common revealed that 6 in 10 people in the UK oppose Qatar hosting the World Cup over its anti-gay laws alone.
Besides the horrendously prehistoric views on equal rights, Qatar has a track record of other serious human rights concerns. While 62% of UK people believe that Qatar’s anti-gay stance alone should have been enough to have stopped them from hosting the World Cup, a further 14% were not sure. Women have a serious imbalance in rights, facing discrimination in all areas of work and life and authorities refuse to allow freedom of expression, using abusive laws to stifle critical opinion. This will be why Qatar has labelled anyone boycotting the World Cup as “arrogant”.
Lucy Powell, Labour MP, said that the government should be challenging FIFA, going on to say that fans should not be put in this position. The government has a duty to ensure the safety of everyone attending instead of defending such discriminatory values. With some MPs downplaying the severity of the situation and safety concerns, this should be incredibly worrying for everyone.
London and Paris are boycotting the World Cup by not hosting any public screenings of the event, but does this go far enough? 8 of the 32 World Cup teams have chosen to promote inclusion by asking to wear OneLove armbands with a rainbow heart. They can only wear equipment provided by FIFA, but England says that Harry Kane is prepared to wear the armband with or without permission. Players are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but with countries having tried to boycott this World Cup since 2017, players refusing to turn up is the last hope we have of any message being taken seriously. Abuse and corruption cannot be tolerated, which is why the Qatar World Cup should be boycotted.