Qatar 2022: ‘World Cup controversies dampen enthusiasm’ – Gabby Logan

I’ve been attending World Cups as a journalist since 1998, and the rise of this is the most unusual I’ve ever experienced.

Usually, when I’m about to go to these tournaments, I’m thinking about what I hope to see on the pitch and I get excited about what is always a great football festival, as I’m sure most of you do too.

Not so this time. The first match is only a few days away, but the background behind Qatar hosting this World Cup and the controversy surrounding the regime there takes away that excitement, and makes me feel uneasy about the whole event.

That’s where I go as a broadcaster, and where the World Cup is held is not something any of us can influence. There was consternation about the final hosts, Russia 2018 as well.

But as my colleague Gary Lineker said, the BBC will be in Qatar reporting, not supporting the regime there and the elements that support it.

It’s clear that Qatar wants the world to watch because it asked to host this World Cup and to do so is an indication of its position on the world stage, but surely with that honor comes a responsibility, and there are fundamental human rights issues involved. we know it can be improved.

We will still be excited about the start of football, but what we can do in the next five weeks is to clarify Qatar’s position on issues such as same-sex relations, women’s rights and the treatment of migrant workers.

When you expose these situations, as many excellent journalists and human rights groups have done in the run-up to this tournament, you hope to draw people’s attention to what is happening and what needs to change, perhaps in parts of the world. don’t think normally.

We need conversations now to make change happen

The success of the World Cup often depends on how much entertainment they provide – things like the TV show and how good the facilities were for the fans.

This time, we should remember the treatment of migrant workers involved in the vast construction project of this tournament – including the shiny new stadiums that will be seen around the world – and instead judge Qatar on whether some of the issues I mentioned change. and improve in the future.

We certainly won’t know that while this World Cup is happening. It will likely be years before we know whether basic human rights and workers’ rights improve in Qatar, and whether all people there have the ability to express themselves freely and live freely in their own country.

Those are the wishes I would have for the legacy of this World Cup, and I think most people would see them as positive goals.

For this inheritance to happen, however, we need to have a collaborative dialogue on these issues while the tournament is going on; while the world watches.

You can’t ignore them. That’s why I found Fifa’s letter earlier this month telling the 32 participating teams to “focus on football now” a particularly hard statement to swallow.

People should have the right to express their opinion

To those who would say that everyone should respect Qatar’s rules and regulations as Fifa seems to be doing, I would say that is not a helpful or productive way to deal with this situation.

Instead, the most important thing that can happen while this World Cup is going on is that people have the right to express their opinion.

For example, while competing in Qatar, if a player wants to stand up and really say that they are against the idea that people from the LGBTQ+ community can’t live the lives they want freely in this country, then that’s their right. to say that

Also, it’s not just the players’ job to talk. If some of them want to focus on football, we have to respect that too.

There will be 832 players in this World Cup and it is imagined that all of them will face Qatar’s human rights violations.

But if someone wants to talk, they should be allowed to, whoever they are.

We should question where the events are held

I’ve joined a WhatsApp group with other women who are working on the World Cup at different channels, not just the BBC.

Some of them already work at Qatar-based BeIN Sports and have been talking about how they feel very safe, as well as giving advice on what we should wear there.

When you go to an Arab country there are certain dress codes to consider for men as well, and the alcohol laws there will affect everyone, but I hope the female fans traveling to watch the tournament feel they can act however they want.

I think we will only know in the first few days of the World Cup what the fan experience will be like in Qatar, and also what the crowd will be like.

I was disappointed when I came to Doha to work on the World Athletics Championships in 2019 and the Khalifa International Stadium was empty, or almost empty, for many of the big events.

This meant that athletes who had worked their whole lives to try to break world records and win gold medals were performing in front of thousands of empty seats at one of the biggest events in their sport.

Back in 2017 he hosted the same event in London when all the shows were pretty much sold out, so the contrast was stark and I didn’t think we should ignore that.

Talking about it didn’t go down well with the sport’s governing body, or chairman Seb Coe, but I would do it again on the issues that arise at this World Cup.

Some fans may be watching from a distance where these big events happen without thinking too much, but when we look back, I think this period in history will raise many questions about how and where they happen in the future.

Consequences of choosing some hosts

The official move to host Qatar 2022 winter World Cup took place in February 2015 – more than four years after they won the bid to host it.

Since then, people have talked about the problems with the timing of this tournament, as well as the environmental impact of building many new stadiums, hotels and other necessary infrastructure.

That hasn’t stopped this World Cup from happening now, of course, but it should make us think more about the merits of spreading these finals and other major sporting events around the world and getting bigger all the time.

As I’ve said a long time ago, the sustainability of these events is something else that needs to be addressed, and everyone needs to think a little more about all the ramifications of choosing certain hosts.

Gabby Logan was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.