Amnesty International, a global non-governmental organisation focused on human rights, has warned FIFA about the upcoming World Cup bids for 2030 and 2034.

The warning from the organisation comes in the form of a 91-page report, which assesses the human rights risks related to the respective bids. In the report Amnesty International has stated that FIFA must rigorously and transparently ensure that bids to host the 2030 and 2034 men’s World Cup tournaments safeguard human rights, rejecting any offer that risks abuse.

The bids in question are the joint Morocco/Spain/Portugal bid for 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s bid for 2034. The warning comes before the detailed bid offers, including human rights strategies, are submitted to FIFA for evaluation. FIFA is expected to confirm the hosts in December.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Labour Rights and Sports, said: “With only a single bid to host each tournament and major human rights concerns surrounding both, there are huge questions about FIFA’s willingness to stand by the pledges and reforms it has made in recent years, including exercising its right to reject any bid which does not meet its stated human rights requirements. 

“The human rights issues associated with the joint 2030 World Cup bid are significant and must be addressed, but the risks associated with the 2034 FIFA World Cup bid by Saudi Arabia – including those faced by workers, fans and journalists – are of an entirely different magnitude and severity.”

Morocco, Spain and Portugal

The three neighbouring countries unveiled plans to host the 2030 World Cup in March. Since then, Amnesty International has investigated potential issues surrounding human rights that may arise from the tournament.

Firstly, the report notes that significant construction is needed in Morocco, including a new 115,000-capacity stadium. However, legislation to improve workplace health and safety has not yet been passed and forced evictions remain a concern.

Additionally, workplace injuries in Spain and Portugal exceed the EU average and Spain has not got a good track record, for example, migrant workers were abused and suffered wage theft while enlarging FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium in 2023.

Other concerns include a shortage of affordable housing in Portugal and Spain, with a rise in short-term rentals driving up costs and causing evictions. In Morocco, laws still pose a risk of gender-based discrimination against female workers and tournament attendees. The criminalization of extramarital sexual relations often deters women from reporting sexual violence.

Saudi Arabia

Perhaps not as surprising, Amnesty International has flagged several concerns about Saudi Arabia’s plans to host the 2034 World Cup, which looks confirmed as it is the only country to make a bid.

The report states that the Kingdom has an “appalling human rights record”, highlighting the country’s image rehabilitation campaign, which it believes is “heavily reliant” on investment in sport.

If Saudi Arabia is approved to host the tournament, it will be the second time the World Cup will be held in the Middle East, after Qatar in 2022, which generated a media-storm of concerns ahead of its tournament.

Cockburn added: “History shows that the World Cup can be a source of dignity or exploitation, inclusion or discrimination, freedom or repression, making FIFA’s award of the hosting rights for the 2030 and 2034 tournaments among the most consequential decisions ever taken by a sporting organisation.”

In the case of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most notable issues revolve around the death penalty, with foreign nationals making up 39% of people executed in the country between 2010 and 2021, including for non-violent offences such as drug charges

Furthermore, the lack of independent media, also brought up before Qatar, poses problems, with the report stating that journalists who criticise the government face censorship, imprisonment and repression.

This claim featured an example of Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi Arabian PhD student at Leeds University, who was detained and sentenced to 27 years in prison based on her Twitter activity.

Another prominent issue ahead of the tournament in Qatar was the rights for LGBTQ+ people, with prosecutions often made under the country’s vague and overly-broad public order and morality regulations.

Proposed Solutions

In response to these issues, Amnesty International has offered recommendations to FIFA on ensuring the safety of all stakeholders.

These include FIFA conducting independent human rights risk assessments for each bid and obtaining binding commitments from host nations to prevent violations.

Also suggesting that FIFA should ensure that civil society organisations, trade unions, fan groups, player unions, and marginalised groups are meaningfully involved throughout the bidding process and tournament preparations.

Andrea Florence, Director of the Sports & Rights Alliance – a coalition involving Amnesty which campaigns for human rights in sport – said: “Before it awards any tournament, FIFA must ensure binding human rights agreements that fully protect workers, local communities, players and fans, including safeguarding against abuse and discrimination of racial and religious minorities, women and LGBTI people.”

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