Qatar killing World Cup workers at record pace, FIFA bribery arrests mean someone may actually notice

Now that FIFA officials are getting arrested left and right following a three-year corruption probe by the FBI, the Washington Post has taken the opportunity to publish a chart comparing worker deaths in Qatar during construction of 2022 World Cup stadiums to worker deaths in other nations’ preparations for World Cups and Olympics. And while the numbers aren’t completely exact — there’s some guesswork involved, and it’s not possible to determine exactly how many of these deaths were on World Cup projects — still, holy crap:

imrs.phpThat’s an insane body count among the workers that Deadspin has taken to calling (entirely accurately) “FIFA slaves,” and is only likely to increase calls for a boycott of the Qatar World Cup, the ouster of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the reassignment of the 2022 World Cup (and maybe the 2018 World Cup currently slated for Russia) to another nation, or all of the above. Not that any of those are exactly likely, but they’re a hell of a lot more likely than they were before the concierge at a five-star Zurich hotel called upstairs to say, “We’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.”

33 comments on “Qatar killing World Cup workers at record pace, FIFA bribery arrests mean someone may actually notice

  1. Can we finally admit that these events are nothing but a method of extracting large amounts of money out of poor countries and/or out of the bodies of laborers from poor countries, increase corruption, and make a mockery of the fans who love these sports? I don’t hold out a ton of hope that these arrests will result in substantial reform, but we’ll see.

  2. I am not sure what you mean by “extracting money out of poor countries”. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world which is why they were able to bribe FIFA so much in the first place (Brazil and Russia are not rich but they are not poor countries either; South African is not that poor either and made the World Cup in Africa possible). No doubt the horrible exploitation of workers imported and denied basic human rights is exploitation of poor people (not nations)–but that is the work of Qatar (they exploit those some workers for all kinds of private development).

    FIFA exploits opaqueness, willed ignorance, anti-democratic institutions, sexism, elitism and greed. They do however redistribute their graft to soccer federations in poorer countries (making FIFA involvement for most actual poor countries a net benefit). You need to understand what they are doing and how they maintain their power in order to get substantial reform.

  3. Yes, in fact, that is why I said and/or in regards to either poor countries or poor laborers. And while yes Qatar certainly is a gross exploiter of labor, FIFA knew this when they signed them up, just as how FIFA and the IOC knew the favelas would be bulldozed as part of a pacification program for their events to take place. That is a very granular reading of things to say that they are not responsible. And no, the fact that soccer federations in poor countries get a cut of the graft does not mean that poor countries benefit, as evidenced by the fact that most of that graft ends up in the pockets of the leadership of those federations, not in actual projects for those soccer federations. So no, poor countries don’t benefit, but certainly their well heeled sports federations (be it their soccer federation or their NOC or whatever sport event is in question) certainly do. That is why the Feds went after that leadership in this raid in order to make clear that this is what will happen to you if you accept bribes for votes. And considering how much money these countries funnel into sports related development and attempts to make bids happen just to get “lesser events’ (such as the Pan American games etc.) I think poor countries certainly are getting fleeced.

    I appreciate however the condescending explanation of how international development and graft works though!

  4. Settle down, folks. This is a worthwhile discussion, there’s no need to flame it up with terms like … okay, “you need to understand” and “condescending” aren’t really out of line, but let’s stop it there, shall we?

  5. Unbelievable. All things considered, I’d be willing to throw down the equivalent of a cup of coffee a month as opposed to seeing this many deaths for an event that will take place just once in Qatar. At least our arenas hold as many as 200 events a year for the next 30 plus. These stadiums will host the World Cup for 1 month then what? And they’re sacrificing up to 4,000 lives. What am I missing?

  6. I’m just glad those arrests were made. It almost seems like a bunch of countries dislike us a little less than they did a week ago.

    Qatar should definitely lose the games, and the process for choosing a host country needs to be far more transparent.

  7. I was not trying to stir anything up. Apologies to Sean if he was offended (the “you” was not “you” but a general plural “you”).

    What I had hoped to convey was that FIFA is funded by large and powerful countries, institutions, and companies. Sean is right that National Soccer Federations and other sporting bodies in poorer countries exploit their countries’ citizens but the FIFA money still comes from the TV contracts around the world (U.S. is most lucrative but mostly because of Telemundo or Univision). I am glad that some of those implicit supporters are wavering (sponsors) and that U.S. government is looking to end part of the corruption. I definitely hope Mr. Blatter is removed from office but we will see.

  8. I hope this means that you’ll never again criticize a media outlet for regurgitating a press release from an advocacy group, because that’s what this post is.

  9. Assuming you mean the trade union groups, Ben: 1) they’re not the only ones reporting this (see the citations at the bottom of the WashPost chart), 2) I noted that these are likely not exact numbers, and 3) even if it’s overstated by, say, a factor of 10, still holy crap.

  10. Really hope that Qatar is stripped of the 2022 World Cup. A country that practices slavery for immigrant labor does not deserve positive recognition from the international community of any sort. They are totally unsuitable to host a World Cup anyway. I can’t believe everyone is having to bend over backwards to accommodate a country the size of Connecticut.

  11. “It almost seems like a bunch of countries dislike us a little less than they did a week ago.”

    Guess I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to international sports organizations, but I figure it’s about 50-50 that we just end up with another batch of corrupt FIFA officials – who are really pissed off at how the US has treated their buddies.

    In any case, is it really corruption if everybody is well aware of how FIFA does business?

  12. It’s still organized crime even when everybody has seen the Godfather, right?

  13. Well, one thing is certain. The US will never be awarded another World Cup in our lifetime.
    In 2022, the World Cup in Qatar will be moved to the winter, leaving a void in the summer. I’d like to see the US boycott the World Cup, and put on an anti-FIFA world soccer tournament in the summer of 2022. This could put a dent in the revenues of the Qatar World Cup.

  14. We USA should probably boycott Qatar 2022, but an alternative tournament is a non-starter, especially if it threatens revenues from FIFA’s golden goose. If they decided to play hard-ball, FIFA could blacklist any professional player who chose to participate, making them unemployable.

    I agree that this kills any chance of a US World Cup for the foreseeable future, but it’s the right thing to do.

  15. I apologize for the “hot take” as it were.

    Even a conservative estimate or reading of Qatar (and other Gulf countries) labor records is atrocious by any rational Western standard. And while some may point out that is unfair, at the same time the reason why these countries hold these events is to suggest or endorse that the country in question has ARRIVED on the world stage. But being a part of the club, fairly or unfairly, means stick to or holding certain standards. And while there may be a fair amount of hypocrisy on the part of Western countries, there is no doubt that not only do many of these countries (be it Russia, Qatar, or potentially Kazakhstan for the upcoming Olympics) not follow those rules, but they don’t even bother to put in an effort.

  16. Neil,

    Even the pro-union activist group admits that they don’t have real numbers and that they’re including deaths of migrant workers that may have absolutely nothing to do with stadium construction.

    None of this is to say that worker conditions in Qatar are acceptable. Maybe (probably) they’re not. But the numbers thrown around don’t stand up to even casual scrutiny and I dislike seeing otherwise-excellent media outlets parrot them.

  17. Right, which is precisely why I wrote above: “the numbers aren’t completely exact — there’s some guesswork involved, and it’s not possible to determine exactly how many of these deaths were on World Cup projects.”

  18. Nothing will change. In a few hours Mr. Blatter will be re-elected to another 4 year term, and none of the World Cup locations will be changing hands. FIFA is a world body, and each association has 1 vote. Honestly, it’s probably the most democratic trans-national body in existence. What does this mean? It means the outrage in the Western World doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. A loss of 30 votes in a 209 member assembly is not very important when you can rely on over 120 votes.

    And that is the point. We are outraged by the corruption. In most non-industrialized parts of the world, this is just the cost of doing business. Bribery is to the third world what permits, labor contracts etc are to the Western World. It’s a different way of thinking elsewhere.

    Ultimately, when your own strongman in your country exploits you, keeps the rich rich and the poor poor, you don’t really care that some unelected official took a lot of money that isn’t yours to award some games you’ll never go to to some place you’ll never see. Thats the majority the world.

    I don’t think any of this is right, by the way, I don’t think he should be re-elected and I think the corruption should be rooted out (by someone else) but ultimately its the call of the entire body, and the majority of the body is happy with the way business is being done right now. Truly democratic.

  19. I am not really sure number of workers killed is all that important a metric in the grand scheme of things except as it stands as a proxy for the horrible conditions generally. Everyone dies, and people in the situations these workers are in die at extremely high rates.

  20. I’m as snarky as anyone, but man is this thread disheartening. You have people either arguing about the death toll (“Why they only killed 1000 migrant laborers!”) or waxing cynical about change (“Death comes to us all…who cares about changing anything?”) At this rate, FIFA might as well build a Pit of Despair next to the main stadium in Qatar.

  21. Guys, Me and my partner have finally agreed to get married, it’s been a long relationship, but he is the man I have been looking for, since we live in the Gay Area (SF), it is highly normal here and we will have a big wedding.

    Thank You for all your posts, I will post pics of my man and me after the wedding.

    Go Giants and 49ers!

  22. Blatter has been officially re-elected and started a “Let’s go FIFA” chant during his winner’s speech lol

  23. I’m not going to delete that 4:25pm post because it’s not a personal attack (calling me gay is supposed to be an insult?), but I am going to ban the commenter for pretending to be me. And worse, capitalizing my name wrong.

  24. I’m not exactly sure what skin the US government has in the FIFA game. Of course they’re corrupt, it is no big secret. But why is it any of our Federal Government’s business? I will admit to maybe missing something here, I’m open to enlightenment on this matter.

  25. Short answer: Some of the bribery involved U.S. citizens, companies, and banks. Marginally longer answer:

  26. Neil, without deleting the particular post from 4:25, can you at least correct the atrocious grammar? :) That to me is the biggest eyesore.

    I’m not trying to be negative myself…just pointing out that, just as in stadia debates homeside that big money and big business dictate policy and decision making. You want Sepp Blatter gone? Get Adidas, Nike, ESPN, and those big corporations to demand it. When the money pipeline shuts off Mr. Blatter and his minions will be out faster than a….well…fast. Money fuels FIFA and it is keeping him in power – as soon as he doesn’t have any money change will happen.

    Coincidentally, I believe that the dysfunction of FIFA is the same reason why the UN is a general failure, but that is a different debate for a different time. :)

  27. Boy, it is sure fortunate that the FBI didn’t go back another five years in their bribery and corruption probe as that would have meant they had to look into USA ’94 as well. That 20yr limit was a real stroke of luck wasn’t it?

    For all those about to post that “we are different” I will note Salt Lake 2002 and, well, pretty much all of the banking and insurance industry in this country if you want to step out of the sporting arena. Is the manner in which the NFL awards it’s championship game to cities really all that different from FIFA’s model? I would argue no, though the scale of FIFAs operation may dwarf that of the NFL.

    FIFA is a disgracefully corrupt organization, IMO, and has perhaps no “equal” in that respect outside of the IOC.

    That said, the pious western nations now looking down their noses at FIFA had no trouble paying (and in the case of certain of their citizens, receiving) the bribes that organization allegedly demanded.

    Is this really about how ‘bad’ Russia and Qatar are? Or is it about FIFA snubbing the US again? IF it is the former, where was the outrage when China and RSA hosted the World Cup?

  28. Calling you a 49er fan might have been the bigger insult…. just my opinion…

  29. … sorry, that should have read “bigger attempted insult”. I have fired my proofreader and awarded myself a hefty management bonus for showing leadership in a difficult economic and operating climate.