FIFA World Cup controversy: How brands are taking a stand

FIFA World Cup

Qatar has been consistently criticized for exploiting human rights, its ill-treatment of migrant workers, & its stance on same-sex relationships. Brands are now taking a stand against the controversial Qatar FIFA World Cup.

The decision to give Qatar the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup raised several questions about Qatar’s limited football history, the high estimated cost, the regional environment, bribery in the bidding process, and its history of human rights violations. While FIFA has seen many sponsors this year and new brands investing in it as it returns after the pandemic, quite a few brands have taken a stand against its silence against Qatar’s patterns of human rights exploitation and FIFA’s tolerance towards it.

According to the YouGov poll, which polled over 17,000 individuals in 15 countries, an overwhelming majority (67%) want their national Football Associations to speak out openly against the human rights concerns related to the 2022 Qatar World Cup, notably in favor of migrant worker compensation.

So, here’s a closer look at what’s brewing in Qatar and how brands are reacting.

Brands call out exploitation of migrant workers

According to The Guardian report, citing embassies in Qatar, more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar building the stadium to host Football. Deaths from heat stress among workers have been linked to outdoor labor in the sweltering summer heat.

During the ongoing tournament, more than one million football fans were anticipated to arrive in Doha, which might lead to exerting a burden on the tiny gulf nation. Qatar even emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of migrant workers in Doha, displacing them to make room for visiting fans during the World Cup.

Amnesty’s Reality Check 2021 report said that despite labor reforms in 2014, practices like withholding salaries and charging workers to switch jobs were common. Qatar government denied allegations of migrant workers being trapped and exploited.

In response to Qatar’s human rights violation record, Hummel, which makes the Danish team’s kit, toned down its branding and released a black kit.

In response to the allegations of workers dying building the stadium, Agency Mojo Supermarket also staged a public protest in the form of projections onto FIFA’s office and the United Nations. It even started an Instagram page called ‘The Slavery Cup.’

Agency Mojo Supermarket also displayed and distributed thousands of passports across London and New York. In each passport are 11 names, faces, and stories of migrant workers who died building the 2022 World Cup stadiums. These passports represented migrant workers who died building the 2022 World Cup stadiums.

Also Read: Experts Speak: Is FIFA worth investing in for Indian brands?

Football blackout for human rights

A group of activists started a campaign called Football blackout for human rights. Explaining the campaign, a release read, “Our goal is that on Saturday, December 10, 2022, as many people as possible do not watch the World Cup. And do something else instead. It’s very simple: Just sign our pledge list and post one or more statements on your social channels with the hashtag #footballblackout.”

Brands call out Qatar and FIFA for tolerating homophobia

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Khalid Salman, an ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar, described it as haram and said it was ‘damage in the mind’ before the World Cup kicked off.

To protest against the country’s LGBTQ+ laws, Naranja X, a fintech firm in Argentina, devised a method for ‘safe hugs’ in Qatar. 

Safe Hugs in Qatar.mp4 from Nicolás Pimentel on Vimeo.

To draw attention to the inhumane treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, the captains of 7 European nations were also planning to wear a ‘One Love’ armband. 

However, after learning that each captain would be shown a yellow card at kickoff for wearing this band, the teams released a joint statement announcing they would not wear it.

Germany’s team covered their mouths in their team photo, portraying how they felt FIFA had silenced them.

From Budweiser to Brewdog, alcohol brands bend the knee

Two days prior to the tournament’s opening match, Qatar decided to ban the sale of beer at FIFA World Cup stadiums. Commenting on the ban, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, “I think personally if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.” 

This decision came as a shocker to Budweiser, one of the oldest sponsors. The brand has been investing in soccer sports tournaments since 1986.

Despite Budweiser’s $75 million deal with FIFA, it couldn’t sell beer at the Qatar stadium. Beer ban led the brand to tweet, “Well, this is awkward …”. The Tweet was later deleted. The brand has announced that the beer it cannot sell in stadiums in Qatar will go to the winning country of the tournament with a Tweet saying: “New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them?”

On the other hand, to protest against the injustice against migrant workers and support LGBTQ+ fans, FIFA saw its very first ‘anti-sponsor.’

Rebel beer brand BrewDog’s website says,” Football is meant to be for everyone. But in Qatar, homosexuality is illegal, flogging is an accepted form of punishment, and it’s OK for 6,500 workers to die building your stadium. That’s why we’re kicking off. And we’re putting our money where our mouth is, with all the profits from our Lost Lager sold during the tournament going to fight human rights abuse. We’re proud to be launching BrewDog as an anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup. To be clear we love football, we just don’t love corruption, abuse, and death.”

BrewDog’s powerful campaign soon became the talk of the town.

BrewDog: Anti-sponsor of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Apart from inhumane treatment of migrants and tolerating homophobic policies of the land, FIFA was also questioned for its charges of corruption. 

In 2020, the US justice department alleged corruption was involved in Qatar’s World Cup bid. More than half the executives who voted for Qatar were accused of, or were charged with corruption. Sepp Blatter, a Swiss former football administrator who served as the president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015, has been banned from taking part in FIFA activities and will continue to be until 2027 as a consequence of the FIFA corruption case that became public in 2015.  

Due to extreme weather conditions in June, when FIFA was originally scheduled to be held, migrants suffered. While FIFA was postponed, it had a significant impact on the professional league’s scheduling worldwide. 

Between these controversies, FIFA in Qatar has given the spotlight to the country’s barbarous practices to some extent. However, now it is up to FIFA’s organizing team to bend the knee, take a stand and disassociate themselves from the country to not condone its inhumane practices.

This is how brands and organizations are taking a stand against FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Let us know if we missed any brands, campaigns, or movements in the comments section below.