Qatar World Cup 2022: Players concerned about human rights will be free to protest, says tournament boss

·3-min read

Players wanting to protest about human rights during the World Cup in Qatar will be free to make their points, according to the chief executive of the tournament.

Speaking to Sky News precisely one year before the World Cup kicks off, Nasser al Khater said they were talking to the English FA and other football associations to encourage them to make informed decisions.

"Anybody who wants to take a position on a topic (it) is their personal right…we have invited them to see things for themselves to look at the progress that has been made over the 10 years," he said.

"It is their right to have these positions, the important thing is for them to take these positions with full information….it is not to take a position based on the news."

The numbers of fatalities among migrant workers who have helped build the stadiums and facilities are disputed.

While over 6,000 migrant deaths have been recorded in the Gulf state since Qatar was awarded the World Cup, the chief executive of the tournament insisted just three workers have lost their lives during the construction process and significant improvements have been made to working conditions and workers' rights.

"Unfortunately the numbers that have been published are not accurate and do not reflect the reality for construction workers on World Cup sites," he said.

"That is a prime example of where we have been unfairly treated…it is publicly available information and the annual worker's welfare report (shows) there have been three work-related fatalities and 39 non-work-related fatalities in the past 10 years.

"These are lives, human beings with families and we share our deepest sympathies with the families of these workers that have lost their life."

Amnesty and other human rights groups say the reality for migrant workers does not match the official version from tournament organisers.

Amnesty recently said "complacency by the authorities is leaving thousands of workers at continued risk of exploitation".

Jakob Jensen, from the Denmark FA, told Sky News that their national team would use their position to protest during the World Cup.

He said: "We've also talked to migrant workers in Qatar and the message they've given us is 'please keep your focus on us, please do not boycott the World Cup'.

"If you want to improve conditions for us, stay at the negotiating table, keep putting a light on the conditions that we are working under. And that's very important for us to take and utilise this advice that we've been given."

LGBTQ+ fans have also voiced deep concerns about the World Cup given that homosexuality is against the law in Qatar.

Chris Paouros, from Kick It Out, told Sky News she could not face travelling to a tournament: "I think about LGBTQ+ Qataris every time I think about Qatar and how they have to live in secret.

"It pains me that we are taking the world's biggest football tournament to a country that wants to criminalise us."

The tournament's chief executive Nasser al Khater said: "Everyone's welcome isn't just a slogan, it is a fact. We are not making differentiation based on race, gender, orientation, religion - everybody is welcome."

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