• Human Rights Watch urges FIFA’s next chief to combat abuse of workers

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    A demonstrator disguised as FIFA President Sepp Blatter takes part in a protest against the condition of workers in Qatar, on the sidelines of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich. AFP PHOTO

    A demonstrator disguised as FIFA President Sepp Blatter takes part in a protest against the condition of workers in Qatar, on the sidelines of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich. AFP PHOTO

    DUBAI: Human Rights Watch said Thursday that the next president of FIFA should ensure that future hosts of the football World Cup comply with fundamental human rights for workers.

    The call came with world football’s governing body in crisis following the arrest of seven of its officials Wednesday in Switzerland for alleged bribery, two days ahead of the FIFA presidential election.

    “The next FIFA president needs to deal directly with crises — including human rights abuses and corruption — that are undermining the foundations of football’s management,” said HRW’s head of global initiatives, Minky Worden.

    “When countries seek the right to host World Cups, they should also be expected to play by the rules, instead of allowing double standards for abusive or discriminatory hosts,” she said in a statement.

    HRW said the newly-formed Sport and Rights Alliance had in April asked candidates for FIFA’s top post to “tackle rights and labor abuses related to the 2018 Russia World Cup and 2022 Qatar World Cup.”

    “Qatar’s abusive ‘kafala’ sponsorship system for migrant workers … is a key part of a highly exploitative labor system,” the New York-based HRW said.

    Worden charged that the arrests “have spotlighted FIFA’s unaccountable system,” arguing that “there should also be new scrutiny of the conditions for a vast army of migrant laborers who are building massive new infrastructure to host the World Cup.”

    HRW said incumbent president Sepp Blatter had “made no personal commitment to address these issues” during his 17 years at the helm.

    The FIFA elections — if they go ahead as planned — are to be held in Zurich on Friday, with Blatter seeking a fifth term and facing a sole challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

    The arrests came as part of a US Justice Department case that named nine officials of FIFA and five sports marketing officials, over alleged bribery and kickbacks involving sponsorships over the past two decades.

    AFP

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