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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.”

Swiss court dismisses Al-Khelaifi bid to recuse prosecutors

Nasser al-Khelaifi
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GENEVA — Qatari soccer and television executive Nasser al-Khelaifi failed in a request to have three prosecutors recused from a case against him in Switzerland that is part of a wider bribery investigation of FIFA.

The Swiss federal criminal court published a ruling Wednesday which dismissed Al-Khelaifi’s complaint filed days after he was questioned last December.

The president of French champion Paris Saint-Germain and Doha-based broadcaster BeIN Media Group was charged in February with inciting FIFA’s former top administrator to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

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Al-Khelaifi avoided a charge of bribery when reaching an undisclosed settlement with FIFA in January to drop a criminal complaint linked to awarding World Cup broadcast rights to BeIN for 2026 and 2030.

The recusal request argued Al-Khelaifi was not given enough time under questioning on Dec. 6 to deal with all points he wanted to address. Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer said he was notified just three days later he would be charged, and prosecutors had “total disinterest” in taking full account of his defense.

A panel of three federal judges dismissed the complaint in a ruling dated March 24. It said Al-Khelaifi must pay 2,000 Swiss francs ($2,060).

Between Al-Khelaifi’s first round of questioning in October 2017 and last December, the lead prosecutor in the wider Swiss investigation of FIFA left his job despite being cleared of alleged misconduct linked to the soccer case.

Though Swiss prosecutors won the latest procedural ruling, their investigation has reportedly hit trouble. French daily Le Monde reported last month that a federal judge asked for more evidence to back up the charge against Al-Khelaifi.

Al-Khelaifi has denied wrongdoing. He became a member of European soccer body UEFA’s executive committee last year while under investigation.

He is implicated in providing former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke with rent-free use of a luxury villa on the Italian island of Sardinia. Valcke faces charges including bribery and also denies wrongdoing.

BeIN has said the price it paid for 2026-2030 World Cup rights, reportedly close to 500 million euros ($540 million), showed no favorable deal was struck.

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.

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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.

Court date set for UAE appeal against Qatar’s Asian Cup win

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GENEVA — A legal challenge by the United Arab Emirates soccer federation that threatens Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup title will be heard at sport’s highest court.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Tuesday it will hear the UAE’s appeal on March 12 in a case that alleges Qatar fielded two ineligible players at the tournament. The Asian Cup was hosted by the UAE during an ongoing diplomatic rift with neighboring Qatar, which will stage the next World Cup in 2022.

A verdict by CAS judges is likely at least several weeks after the hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The ruling could strip Qatar of its biggest success in world soccer, affect key young players in its World Cup planning, and see the UAE inflict an embarrassing loss on a regional political rival.

The UAE filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation after a 4-0 loss to Qatar in the Asian Cup semifinals in Abu Dhabi last January.

When an ineligible player case is proven, AFC rules say a team must forfeit the game.

The Asian governing body’s first disciplinary ruling cleared Qatar of wrongdoing hours before beating Japan 3-1 in the final.

UAE officials have appealed to CAS against the Qatar Football Association and the AFC, whose appeal committee also later dismissed the claims of wrongfully submitted documents.

The UAE alleges Qatar’s star forward Almoez Ali and defender Bassam Al-Rawi were not born there and did not meet FIFA nationality requirements to represent the country.

FIFA’s statutes say players can acquire a nationality if they have “lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.”

Both Ali, who turned 23 since the Asian Cup ended, and Al-Rawi, who is now aged 22, seemed not to meet the five-year residency rule.

However, both reportedly claimed their mothers were born in Qatar – meeting FIFA’s national eligibility standard if a parent or grandparent is born on a territory.

Ali scored against the UAE, and again in the final, for a tournament-leading nine goals. Al-Rawi was suspended for the semifinal but returned to play against Japan.

They are also club teammates at Al-Duhail, runner-up in the Qatari league last season, and fellow graduates of the state-of-the-art Aspire youth academy in Doha which has educated many players born outside of Qatar.

The latest appeal extends difficulties between the soccer neighbors which showed in a heated semifinals game played 20 months into an economic and travel boycott of Qatar by regional political rivals.

After Qatar took a 2-0 lead in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – named for the UAE crown prince – players celebrating the goal had to dodge shoes thrown by some spectators.

The UAE soccer body was later fined $150,000 by the AFC for the fans’ misconduct, including the shoe-throwing and disrespecting the Qatari anthem.

The teams met again in Doha five weeks ago, when the UAE and Saudi Arabia agreed to travel to Qatar to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup, won by Bahrain. Qatar beat the UAE 4-2 in a group-stage game.

USMNT cancels trip to Qatar for January camp

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UPDATE: U.S. Soccer has since announced that the USMNT will hold its training camp the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

The U.S. men’s national team has canceled its trip to Qatar where it was originally scheduled to hold its annual January training camp.

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The decision was announced on Friday and is due to potential destabilization of the Middle East region following the death of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Thursday.

The LA Times first reported that the USMNT will instead hold its January camp in Florida, but the federation has not yet confirmed a new location. U.S. Soccer said in its statement that they are “working with the Qatar Football Association to find an opportunity in the near future for our team to experience Qatar’s world-class facilities and hospitality.”

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According to the Washington Post, the USMNT, which was scheduled to arrive in Qatar this weekend, had planned to play multiple closed-door friendlies while in the country.

The Yanks will kick off their 2020 slate of games with a friendly against Costa Rica on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif.