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Fifa urged by Amnesty International to uphold human rights at 2030 and 2034 World Cups

Amnesty International outside the Qatari embassy on International Migrants Day, in Brussels

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’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.

“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.”

Assessing the human rights risks related to the respective bids, Amnesty claims that in Spain, Morocco and Portugal “migrant workers are at risk of exploitation”, “excessive use of police forces is a proven risk” and “racial discrimination is an issue in all three countries”.

It says an independent Fifa evaluation of Morocco’s previous bid – to host the 2026 World Cup – “noted its criminalisation of same-sex acts was particularly problematic” and that the country “restricts freedom of expression”.

Last year President Dr Patrice Motsepe, the president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) hailed the three-nation bid, saying “this partnership brings together and unites Africa and Europe in football and inspires all of us to work together and make the world a better place. Caf believes that Morocco’s hosting of the World Cup will contribute significantly to the development and growth of football in Africa.”

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia has invested in sport “to distract from its abysmal track record of abuses”, and that the building programme required for the 2034 tournament is “heightening risks surrounding forced evictions [and] serious risk of labour abuses”.

It adds that “discrimination is deeply embedded in legislation and practices, and could impact fans, workers, players and journalists… women fans face the risk of unfair and disproportionate prosecution… and there have been sweeping arrests and imprisonment of journalists, human rights defenders, political activists.”

Amnesty says reforms to prevent human rights violations related to the World Cup in Saudi Arabia would need “sweeping changes to labour laws to protect workers, and the release of activists and human rights defenders who’ve been unjustly imprisoned”.

Last year the Saudi Sports Minister rejected claims of ‘sportswashing’ and defended the country’s right to host the 2034 tournament, telling the BBC: “We’ve hosted more than 85 global events and we’ve delivered on the highest level. We want to attract the world through sports. Hopefully, by 2034, people will have an extraordinary World Cup.”

He said the bid “constitutes an important and natural step in our journey as a country passionate about football”.

“Any country has room for improvement, no-one’s perfect. We acknowledge that and these events help us reform to a better future for everyone,” claimed Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.

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