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June 12, 2014

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Brazil World Cup: should FIFA take responsibility for safety standards?


With reports of safety issues in Qatar and rushed construction in Brazil, Mark Rowland asks whether FIFA should hold World Cup host nations to greater safety standards.

Poll: Should FIFA impose higher safety standards, or should the responsibility lie with host nations?

Larissa Prevett: the safety of sports event construction is finally coming under scrutiny

The 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil today, with the host nation taking on Croatia at the Arena de Sao Paulo this afternoon. The excitement at the tournament’s opening match is tempered by one crucial thing — the stadium isn’t finished.

The construction companies overseeing the World Cup stadia are scrabbling to finish the job, and time is rapidly running out. The consensus among both international observers, and the Brazilian people themselves, is that the government has bitten off more than it can chew.

Nine workers have died in the rush to finish the arenas on time, most recently in March. The project is almost six months late; the original deadline, set by FIFA, was 31 December.

Those incidents in Brazil pale in comparison to the safety record in Qatar. Estimates put the death toll for migrant workers at around 4,000 by the end of the project. According to the International Trade Union Convention, 1,200 migrants have already died in the four years since the nation was awarded the 2022 World Cup bid under what many consider to be shady circumstances.

Despite the death toll in Qatar, the obvious human rights abuses and the mixed messages delivered by the Qatari government, FIFA is unrepentant about its decision to host the World Cup there, with president Sepp Blatter stating: “There is not one single doubt that the World Cup 2022 will be organised in Qatar, with all matches to be played in Qatar. The decision has been taken on the 2 December 2010 and will not be reversed.”

In that same statement, Blatter said: “We are not responsible for the laws [in Qatar], but we are happy to see that the laws will be amended.”

It seems that, although FIFA has made statements expressing its disappointment in the deaths in Qatar, the organisation’s solution to the problem is not particularly proactive.

But FIFA should take human rights and safety records into account when choosing host nations. It should be insisting on a standard of safety before the bid is even placed. Its light touch in Qatar is all well and good, but this light touch does not apply when it comes to FIFA’s monetary interests.

In 2003, the Brazilian government banned the sale of alcohol at football matches, in an attempt to make games safer — matches regularly descended into violence, rioting, and death.

Just over 10 years since that law was brought into force, FIFA have persuaded the Brazilian government to sign a new law allowing the sale of alcohol at World Cup matches.  One of FIFA’s World Cup sponsors is Budweiser.

So FIFA have a history of imposing its standards on host nations. Why not do the same when it comes to standards of safety? Considering its charitable status (allowing it to pay no tax in any of its host nations), surely it could find a conscience when it comes to saving people’s lives.


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9 years ago

Be honest about this (and all other professional sporting competitions such as this). It is not about football or sportsmanship, it is all about profit. Without profit FIFA would not exist. Charitable status has nothing to do with being charitable in this case and is just a tax dodge for more profit. When such huge sums are involved the humanitarian side of the issue will not be a real factor unless the host country makes it so. Anyone who thinks that FIFA will be selective on venues when the host nation’s stance on worker safety is a concern is naive… Read more »