The World Cup and Migrant Workers


Recently, authorities organizing the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil (2014) and in Qatar (2022) have been heavily criticized for the treatment of migrant workers. The BBC reported on how migrant workers in Brazil were treated like “slaves” on infrastructural projects related to the 2014 World Cup, such as the development of the Sao Paulo airport. Likewise, Amnesty International published a report on an array of mistreatment’s against migrant workers in Qatar (report available here). Notably, this report points to how employers are retaining documents and passports, leaving migrants “undocumented” and therefore open to being detained by authorities.

In the soccer environment there is significant promotion of various anti-discrimination campaigns, such as the UEFA anti-racism campaign and the FIFA “say no to racism” campaign. These organizations could also promote a “fair employment conditions” campaign – highlighting the numerous inequalities in working standards within and outside of the soccer milieu. Perhaps this suggestion is bordering on Utopian, however, there is one practical solution. UEFA and FIFA could ensure that the authorities (in cities or countries) granted permission to host major soccer events (such as the European Cup or World Cup) have transparent and “fair” employment standards in place. As part of the conditions set to secure a bid to host an event, employment standards should be in place that guarantee equality and safety for those that will build the various facilities required for the international soccer community. Due to the temporary nature of the work that surrounds these events, it is quite likely that a major proportion of the workforce on these projects will be migrants. Therefore, these employment standards are especially important for migrant workers, who are most vulnerable to exploitation.


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