Amid reports that nothing is being done to allay the horrific, sometimes deadly conditions of migrant workers on World Cup construction sites, sponsors are beginning to get edgy.
In a strangely collective effort, three major FIFA sponsors all released statements on Wednesday that seemed to put pressure on the governing body to up its game. In the strongest and most commendable of the bunch, Visa released a statement expressing “grave concern” over the reports from Qatar as well as the general poor press FIFA continues to pile up. It’s not a solution, but it’s a start.
“We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions,” the statement read. “We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress.”
Adidas released one of their own, saying they are in touch with the governing body about assuaging the bad publicity and saying they are active in developing a solution (which may or may not be a good idea to admit considering how little progress has actually been made).
“There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing, but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved,” the Adidas statement read, continuing to assure customers they remain in “constant dialogue” with FIFA over the situation.
A similar statement came from fellow sponsor Coca-Cola just hours later, although theirs was much more meek in stature, giving FIFA plenty of credit where they probably don’t deserve. “We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address questions regarding specific labor and human rights issues,” the soft drinks company said in a statement from its Atlanta headquarters. “We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress.
“We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”
Coca-Cola’s statement isn’t going to get anywhere, but Visa’s might. As many are aware, the corporate sponsors likely hold the one true power in the struggle to prevent the numerous injustices taking place in Qatar: money. Nothing else will move a corrupt and filthy organization such as FIFA, but if the sponsors make moves, it could have an effect. They’ll need to do better than statements, though. It will likely take a widespread exodus to force FIFA’s hand. One or two sponsors pulling out won’t do much, given that FIFA can probably find replacements. But if they all stand together, it could make a difference. Statements are a start, but at this point they’re just words. Still, it’s good to see the companies are keeping a watchful eye…or so they say.