We should boycott the 2022 Qatar World Cup

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A Pakistani man working on the roads in the heat, felled by heatstroke. A disorganised at best response to his emergency, with no medical treatment. His body hauled into the back of a truck, dead like so many other migrant workers in his position. That was what my mum saw one day when she lived in Qatar and unfortunately, that man’s story is not unique. Just like many migrant workers in Qatar before him and many since.

Since that day, the World Cup has been awarded to Qatar, and last year the Guardian has reported the deaths of 6,500 workers in Qatar, though other reports put this number even higher. The stadiums they have died to build will be abandoned after the tournament, leaving only a legacy of death and sportswashing from the Qatari government.

This is not just a World Cup with a morally questionable regime in charge – nothing new for FIFA. This is not just a World Cup with a questionable process of selecting the host country by an organisation with a history of corruption. This is a World Cup quite literally built on the death of migrant workers in Qatar.

I love football, and I’ve never enjoyed watching England as much as I did in 2021, with young, exciting footballers taking England through to the Euros finals. The players and Gareth Southgate did more than just win matches –  they gained some respect back for the sport, as they acted with dignity and class.

It will be disappointing for football fans to see the team that was much loved and so close to Euros victory in 2021 watch on as the World Cup goes ahead. But far worse would be to see Marcus Rashford, the hero of free school meals, used as a vehicle for sportswashing by the Qatari government.

The UK should offer no legitimacy to this cruel event, and Liberal Democrats should be calling for a boycott of the 2022 Qatar World Cup by all the UK nations. The lack of dignity given to the worker my mum saw years ago, just scratches the surface of the issues in Qatar. What is so outrageous about this particular tournament, is how direct the damage has been.



* Freddie Hoareau is a party member and the Campaign Organiser for Lewes constituency.

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  • Brad Barrows 9th Mar '22 - 6:56pm

    Serious political parties do not suggest ideas that would alienate millions of voters for little more tokenism.

  • Lauren Thomas 9th Mar '22 - 7:02pm

    Great piece. Boycotting the World Cup would be a bold move for sure — but not bolder than cutting off trade with one of the world’s major nuclear powers. We’ve passively accepted Qatar’s human rights abuses even though we’ve known about them for years. Right now they’ve seen no repercussions for how they treat workers so why would they change? And don’t forget about the fact that it’s essentially impossible for such workers to ever gain citizenship or any kind of permanent legal status…

  • Freddie Hoareau 9th Mar '22 - 7:36pm

    @Brad Barrows Thanks for commenting, firstly boycotting is more than tokenism it would take funds and support away from FIFA and Qatar, and it would take a huge gloss off of the event for them. They’re looking for tokens themselves to show legitimacy, why should we give it to them? I’d also challenge that it would alienate millions of voters, as many of them are aware of how corrupt the process that got us to where we are with the Qatar World Cup. Finally, I think we need to be bold in standing up for human rights as a party, and this would do this.

    @Lauren thank you for the comment

  • Of course the World Cup should never have been ‘awarded’ to Quatar in the first place, Freddie. However, I’m afraid the door is open and the horse bolted long ago ….. which says a lot about FIFA, its ethics, the people who control it and the money bags bankrolling modern football.

    Could I also gently point out – since you mention the UK – that you really must break your south of England bad habit of Anglo-centricity. England is not the only UK nation with the possibility of reaching the World Cup Finals. The UK (at the moment) team that I happen to give my support to is still caught up in the difficulty and dilemma of playing Ukraine in the play offs.

  • Brad Barrows 9th Mar '22 - 8:48pm

    @Freddie Hoareau
    Thanks for replying. I think we have to honest that far more people are passionate about football than are about politics, and millions will have followed the various countries of the UK as they have attempted to qualify for the World Cup. The idea that the Liberal Democrats would then campaign for those teams that do qualify to then not attend the Finals would, in my opinion, not go down well with most of those fans.

  • George Thomas 9th Mar '22 - 10:17pm

    England have a fantastic chance to win in Qatar (minimum expectations are for a semi-final) so decision whether to boycott or not really depends on what England plans on turning up:

    1. There is the best of England which is able to go to difficult environments and speak directly to local press about need to challenge racism. This England can talk about what the UK sees as protected characteristics and spread that message.

    2. There is another England which was seen in the Euros with booing of opposition anthems, mocking crying children, shining laser pointers in opposition players eyes and Gareth Southgate playing to worst element of the fanbase by championing the “German bombers” song – all this before the final. There is no point in this England side showing up and can do best work by being a tournament favourite who refuses to go.

    Bit of a non-starter though, the English FA don’t want to miss out on second tournament in a row where England are favourites and this time without pressure of hosting final. Focus probably should be on encouraging Southgate etc. to speak out rather than excusing themselves from this responsibility.

  • John Oundle 9th Mar '22 - 10:36pm

    Has Sepp Blatter actually been charged with anything?

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Mar '22 - 7:44am
  • Sadly, I have to agree with Brad Barrows and David Law…

    As for football fans feeling for Qatar;s foreign workers? It was only a few days ago when Chelsea fans repeatedly chanted Roman Abramovich’s name during a minute’s applause in support of the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…

  • David Garlick 10th Mar '22 - 10:06am

    The basic need is to counter greed and self interest. (Football is just one, but prime, example. I suggest we start at home as our house is not in order even in politics. Highlighting abuse wherer it occurs should be an accepted Lib Dem principle which should not be subject watering down in order to gain seats.

  • Freddie Hoareau 10th Mar '22 - 11:48am

    Thanks everyone for the discussion, and comments are really interesting, few points it raises for me:

    – Football fans have seen much of what they love about the sport being eroded for a long time, and taking a stand against is bold but it could be popular. Even Boris opposed the superleague (the impact that would have on competition on changes the context a lot of course).
    – I’d have blocked the Newcastle sale if I could, and I’m happy Abramovich is being sanctioned, I’d love to see Football cleaned up, from better ticket prices, to match day experiences, to ownership and so on…
    – If taking a moral stand at this World Cup means I can watch the rest of the World Cups in my life time without the distasteful feeling Chris references, would be worth it to me.
    – FIFA is corrupt, and we should, at the very least, challenge them not to repeatedly engage in doing the wrong thing, not just accept whatever it is they put forward.

  • Freddie Hoareau 10th Mar ’22 – 11:48am,,,,,,,,,,,,,. Even Boris opposed the superleague …

    Are you sure? The media, including the Johnson supporting Telegraph, Times, Express and Mail, ran stories that Johnson had ‘given his support to the idea and only voiced opposition when the depth and volume of the protest from everyone (excepting the owners of the few clubs involved) became clear..

  • Freddie Hoareau 11th Mar '22 - 1:46pm

    @expats exactly that, as someone who only cares about the public mood he decided it was worth opposing, reinforcing that there are times you can politically take some action against the people running football

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