Fifa boss announces body to monitor Qatar 2022 World Cup labour conditions

Fifa President Gianni Infantino speaks to journalists during the joint press conference for Fifa, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Qatar Football Association in Doha, Qatar, on April 22, 2016.
Fifa President Gianni Infantino speaks to journalists during the joint press conference for Fifa, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Qatar Football Association in Doha, Qatar, on April 22, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

DOHA (AFP) - Gianni Infantino announced on Friday (April 22) that Fifa will establish a body to monitor working conditions for labourers at Qatar's 2022 World Cup stadiums and insisted the tournament would stay in the Gulf.

Speaking during his first visit to Doha as president of world football's governing body, Infantino said Fifa would act on criticisms that it has done little to protect those building venues for its showcase tournament in six years' time.

"We will not just sit and wait," he told journalists at a press conference.

"Fifa will step up its efforts in overseeing - in particular the set-up by the (Qatar) Supreme Committee - in order to ensure the protection of the workers' rights in the construction of the Fifa World Cup sites."

He added that the proposal had been welcomed by the "highest Qatari authorities".

The body would monitor systems in place to ensure decent working conditions, and would be independent, added Infantino.

It is not yet clear who will sit on the committee, but Infantino said he wanted it to be "put in place very, very soon".

He added: "Fifa is not the world welfare agency... our job is to govern football, but of course we are aware of our responsibilities." The initiative was announced after recent criticism suggesting that Fifa had been too slow to address the contentious issue of workers welfare.

A report by rights group Amnesty International in March, which alleged for the first time labour abuses at a World Cup stadium site in Qatar, said Fifa had shown a "lack of meaningful action" on the issue.

Amnesty had also directly criticised Infantino following its report and had urged him to press the case for reform while in Qatar.

Last week, a report by Harvard professor John Ruggie assessing Fifa's human rights efforts was published and listed 25 recommendations for football's governing body.

Amnesty's Mustafa Qadri - author of the recent report, who was also in Doha - said Infantino's initiative was a step in the right direction but added that the overseeing committee must come with real power.

Qadri said: "What we need to ask ourselves is if this body sees problems, will there be repercussions, sanctions?"

The International Trade Union Confederation said the announcement showed Fifa is beginning to take responsibility for those working on World Cup projects.

"This could be an important step forward to ending the abuse of Qatar's migrant workforce," ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said.

Also on Friday, Infantino said that the 2022 tournament would definitely remain in Qatar.

He denied that allegations over workers abuse and an ongoing investigation in Switzerland over corruption claims could see the tournament played elsewhere.

"When it comes to the question of where the World Cup will take place here in 2022 or not, of course the World Cup will take place in Qatar in 2022," said Infantino.

"Again this is a decision that has been taken six years ago... I think we have to move on." The press conference came on the final day of a two-day trip to Qatar by the FIFA boss, during which he met World Cup officials and the country's emir.

He also visited the Khalifa International Stadium, where Amnesty alleged the abuses took place.

Before arriving in the Gulf, Infantino had also concluded a two-day visit to Russia, World Cup hosts in 2018.

In Moscow, he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and gave an overall positive assessment of the state of preparations for the tournament in two years' time.