There’s the long-standing allegation that it obtained the rights to hold the world’s biggest sporting event through bribery. In fact, the accusation has led to lengthy investigations by authorities in Britain, the United States, Switzerland and France.
There are also practical considerations. For the first time in its history the tournament will be switched to November and December from its normal dates of June and July to avoid the 50-degree summer heat in Qatar. That means clubs and leagues around the world will have to shut down for several peak mid-season weeks.
This week offered yet another reason to rethink holding international soccer’s biggest festival there – human rights.
That came to the forefront with the news that a 22-year-old Dutch woman was held in Qatar for nearly three months after telling police she had been raped. She was released on Monday after receiving a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of about $1,000 for the crime of having sex out of wedlock.
This disturbing case raises concerns about how Qatari authorities will deal with the thousands of Western tourists expected to travel there for the World Cup.
It’s not just how Qatar treats women that calls into question its suitability to hold the event. Amnesty International calls the country’s overall human rights record deplorable. It arbitrarily restricts the rights to free expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Further, its lack of respect for rights is underlined by how it treats its migrant workers. Five years after the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, international labour authorities estimated preparations for the games had already claimed the lives of 1,000 migrant construction workers. The death toll is expected to reach 4,000 before a single match is played.
Finally, there are claims that Qatar supports terrorist organizations.
Indeed, considering Qatar’s appalling record one might wonder why the protection of human rights isn’t one of FIFA’s criteria for granting a country the rights to hold the World Cup.
After constantly making the news in 2015 for corruption scandals, FIFA should show it has reset its compass and do the right thing. It should pull the tournament from Qatar and ensure human rights are a top criterion when choosing a replacement venue for the World Cup before one more woman is jailed for being raped or one more migrant worker dies.