FIFA president Gianni Infantino concedes work on improving the welfare of workers preparing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be “never finished” but is pleased by the progress made.
World football’s governing body has come under sustained criticism after awarding its showpiece tournament to the Gulf state in 2010, with the abject conditions endured by migrant labourers working on infrastructure projects an area that has attracted particular scrutiny.
Last October, an unnamed worker died at the construction site of the new stadium for the tournament in Al Wakrah while, in the same month, the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) brought a legal challenge against FIFA over its alleged complicity in the mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar. The legal challenge was brought on behalf of Bangladeshi worker Nadim Sharaful Alam and FIFA denied the allegations.
The organising committee for Qatar 2022 has taken steps to improve welfare standards and accommodation for workers on stadium developments but Infantino acknowledges it is an ongoing process.
“Work on this issue is never finished and there is a lot that still needs to be done, however there has been progress,” he said in an interview with the official website for the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
“The World Cup in Qatar is a catalyst for change, providing a tremendous opportunity to set a benchmark for the conditions of workers, not just in this country but across the entire Gulf region.
“Yes, a lot needs to be done but I think you must also look at what has already been accomplished like the establishment of workers welfare standards, the signing of an agreement between Building and Wood Workers’ International and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to conduct joint labour and accommodation inspections on World Cup stadia, and the cooled helmet and towel initiatives which will provide workers with specially designed helmets and cold towels during construction phases when temperatures increase.
“We will always look at this issue in a critical way, but in a way that provides constructive criticism and recognises the progress and effort that has been achieved so far.”
Infantino added: “The World Cup spotlight may bring some negativity at times but it also brings positivity and we must continue this good work.
“No matter what happens, 2022 will leave a lasting legacy because it is the first World Cup to be organised in the Middle East.
“It is the first time an Arab country will have hosted the tournament and this is important as we live in a time when we need to highlight respect and inclusion.”
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