2022 World Cup

Qatar World Cup stadium workers
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Qatar World Cup stadium workers struggle to secure salaries

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LONDON — Migrant workers building a World Cup stadium in Qatar have been struggling to secure pay they are owed, a human rights group and the Qatari government said Wednesday, highlighting ongoing labor issues in the country.

Amnesty International said around 100 workers on the Al Bayt Stadium have had problems securing months of salaries from design and construction subcontractor Qatar Meta Coats.

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“Although recent payments will provide some welcome relief for workers, Qatar’s World Cup organizers told us they had known about the salary delays since July 2019,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice. “This raises the question of why Qatar allowed workers to continue working for months without pay.

“For years we have been urging Qatar to reform the system, but clearly change has not come fast enough. It shouldn’t take an Amnesty investigation for workers to be paid what they are owed.”

The workers came from countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and the Philippines, according to Amnesty.

Organizers of the 2022 World Cup said the case was “unacceptable” but said it came to light last year after audits and interviews with workers by their welfare department.

“Our efforts resulted in an initial payment of three months overdue salaries to workers,” the Doha-based organizing committee said. “We continued to exert every effort within our power to redress the issue.”

The government said it was made aware of Qatar Meta Coats’ owed salaries in September 2019, leading to the company being fined and operations suspended.

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“Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats’ workforce received irregular salary payments during this period,” the government said. “In May 2020, the issue was partially resolved and all salary payments from February to May were paid in full by the company.

“There are a small number of outstanding salary payments preceding February, which will be resolved in the coming days.”

Amnesty said some workers complained in January to Qatar’s labor tribunals.

Qatar was awarded the Middle East’s first World Cup in a FIFA vote in December 2010. Pressure from rights groups on conditions for workers intensified as Qatar started to build the infrastructure it lacked to host a major international sports event.

“There are still issues to overcome, including those related to the attitudes and behaviors of a small minority,” the government said. “This will take time, but we remain firmly committed to the task.”

Blatter suggests 2022 World Cup could be moved to U.S., other countries

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is serving a six-year ban from football, has stated that the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the United States or other well-developed countries is still a possibility after fresh corruption charges were brought forth by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Last week, Russia and Qatar both released statements denying the charges, but formal proceedings could potentially push through change regarding the upcoming tournament host where years of speculation and conjecture could not.

In an interview with German publication Sport Bild, Blatter inferred that change is still possible and laid out a short list of countries who would be capable of hosting on short notice.  Referencing the joint-bid for the United States to host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico beginning an expanded field, Blatter suggested that could be formally moved forward.

“Germany could do it. But this would mean the World Cup being staged in Europe again after 2018,” Blatter said. “Europe therefore would not be first choice. The United States could do it instead of 2026. They are capable, it’s not rocket science! Japan could also do it. They also bid to host the 2022 World Cup.”

“Fortunately, the 2022 World Cup will only have 32 teams and not 48 as [FIFA president Gianni Infantino] had planned. The organisational effort would not be bigger than 2018.”

There would still be massive logistical roadblocks to this. As Blatter mentioned, the upcoming 2022 tournament is not yet featuring an expanded field, so filling out a scheduled also playing games in Mexico and Canada could be troublesome with fewer games. If only the United States hosted in 2022 and the 2026 bid was reopened, Mexico and Canada could be left out in the cold, which would clearly not go over well.

Qatar’s denial of the latest allegations was forceful, although their defense continues to shift from “we didn’t do anything wrong” to “you can’t prove it.”

“Despite years of false claims, evidence has never been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 unethically or by means that contravened FIFA’s strict bidding rules,” said the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in a statement. “The SC maintains that it strictly adhered to all rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process and any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested.”

Still, the pressure is mounting on Qatar to prove its innocence, and the murmurs continue about whether they will actually prove a viable host.

U.S. prosecutors allege bribes in 2018, 2022 World Cup votes

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NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors revealed new details of alleged bribes paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup and charged a pair of former 21st Century Fox executives with making illegal payments to win broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

[ MORE: Former U.S. TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

An indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn says Nicolás Leoz, then president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL, and former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira received bribes to vote for Qatar at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting.

Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia to host in 2018 from 10 different shell companies that included entities in Anguilla, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, the indictment alleged. Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was promised a $1 million bribe to vote for Russia, according to the indictment.

Leoz, who died last August, avoided extradition, as have Warner and Teixeira. Salguero pleaded guilty in 2018 to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count each of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Alejandro Burzaco, former head of the marketing company Torneos y Competencias, testified in 2017 that all three South Americans on the FIFA executive committee took million-dollar bribes to support Qatar, which prevailed over the U.S. 14-8.

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Former 21st Century Fox Inc. executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez were charged Monday with making payments to CONMEBOL officials to obtain broadcast rights bidding information from a co-conspirator whose identify was not identified in the indictment.

ESPN had U.S. English-language television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014, but Fox in 2011 gained the rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. After the 2022 tournament in Qatar was shifted from summer to late autumn, a time when it is likely to get less attention in the U.S., FIFA awarded Fox rights for 2026 without competitive bidding.


Also charged in the indictment, handed up by a grand jury on March 18, are former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy; and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA.

The indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play also allege racketeering conspiracy.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

Since the first indictments were announced in May 2015, there have been 26 publicly announced guilty pleas, many from former soccer officials, including CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer.

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CONMEBOL president Juan Ángel Napout and Brazil federation president José Maria Marin were convicted following trials. Napout is in prison in Florida and Marin was released from a prison last week. Some individuals await sentencing.

Lopez was CEO of Fox International Channels, a 21st Century Fox subsidiary, and Martinez was president of Fox International Channels and an executive of Fox Latin American Channel Inc. They are accused of joining with Full Play to pay million of dollars in bribes to CONMEBOL executives in exchange for rights to the Copa Libertadores, South America’s annual club championship.

“It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case,” Lopez’s lawyer, Matthew D. Umhofer, said in an email. “The indictment contains nothing more than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper. Mr. Lopez can’t wait to defend himself at trial.”

Steven J. McCool, Martinez’s attorney, said in an email: “We are certain a jury will swiftly exonerate Carlos, as the charges against him are nothing more than stale fiction.”


Carlos Ortiz said Full Play intends to plead not guilty at Thursday’s arraignment and his client “looks forward to vigorously defending itself against all of the charges at trial.”

A lawyer for Romy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fox Sports also did not respond to a request for comment.

Romy is accused with joining his alleged co-conspirators to pay a $3 million bribe to Jeffrey Webb, the former president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, for media and marketing rights to home World Cup qualifiers in the Caribbean for the 2018 and 2022 cycles. Webb pleaded guilty on Nov. 23, 2015, to several counts and awaits sentencing.

Former U.S. TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery

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NEW YORK (AP) A pair of former sports marketing executives of 21st Century Fox have been indicted on charges they paid bribes to soccer officials to obtain confidential bidding information during FIFA’s sale of U.S. television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Charges were unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against former 21st Century Fox Inc. executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez. They are accused of making payments to officials of the CONMEBOL, South American soccer’s governing body.

ESPN had U.S. English-language television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014, but Fox in 2011 gained the rights for 2018 and 2022 tournaments. After the 2022 tournament in Qatar was shifted from summer to late autumn, a time when it is likely to get less attention in the U.S., FIFA awarded Fox rights for 2026 without competitive bidding.

Also charged in the indictment, handed up by a grand jury on March 18, are former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy; and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA. The Justice Department said the indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play allege racketeering conspiracy.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

[ MORE: Son Heung-min to complete military service in South Korea ]

Lopez and Martinez are accused of joining with Full Play to pay million of dollars in bribes to executives of CONMEBOL in exchange for rights to the Copa Libertadores, South America’s annual club championship.

“It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case,” Lopez’s lawyer, Matthew D. Umhofer, said in an email. “The indictment contains nothing more than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper. Mr. Lopez can’t wait to defend himself at trial.”

Steven J. McCool, Martinez’s attorney, said in an email: “We are certain a jury will swiftly exonerate Carlos, as the charges against him are nothing more than stale fiction.”

Lawyers for Romy and Full Play did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox Sports also did not respond to a request for comment.

Romy is accused with joining his alleged co-conspirators to pay a $3 million bribe to Jeffrey Webb, the former president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, for media and marketing rights to home World Cup qualifiers in the Caribbean for the 2018 and 2022 cycles. Webb pleaded guilty on Nov. 23, 2015, to several counts and awaits sentencing.

USMNT primed for big 2020, revive World Cup dream

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After their training camp was moved from Qatar to Bradenton, Florida at short notice, the USMNT are getting focused on a huge 2020 as they aim to rebuild the reputation of the program.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has already discussed their hope of setting up a training camp in Qatar before the 2022 World Cup, while the U.S. are heading to the Netherlands and reportedly Wales in March as they continue to prepare for a crucial period in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as the majority of their qualifiers are in the fall of 2020.

LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman has become a reliable presence at the heart of the USMNT defense and he knows the hard work starts now as this young U.S. group focus on 2022 World Cup qualification.

“We talked about it and we have six qualifiers at the end of this year, which is 60 percent of our qualifying process,” Zimmerman said. “It is huge. Everything is in front of us. We have all of our goals in front of us for this year and we have the Nations League in June, which is another chance for us to play in a competitive environment and try to win our first trophy as a group. Then it is all about looking ahead to qualifying. ‘How can we prepare ourselves for these first seven or eight months to head into September ready to go.'”

With a few weeks training followed by a friendly against familiar foe Costa Rica, Berhalter will be hoping to get his message across loud and clear with the MLS portion of his squad.

That’s something he struggled with last season as the USMNT failed to impress with disjointed displays and Berhalter’s philosophy of possession-based, fluid, attacking soccer only appeared in fits and starts.

The USMNT need to start 2020 well and this camp in January and their friendlies in March, with the European contingent involved for the first time, will set the tone for a massive 12 months in deciding whether or not they make a huge leap forwards as they hope to return to the World Cup.

With Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams all going through battles with injury and form so far this season, Berhalter knows this young USMNT squad needs its leaders to be fit and raring to go when September rolls around.

His time in charge will be judged on how the U.S. fare in World Cup qualifying. That’s it. That’s the job.