KEIR RADNEDGE in COSTA DO SAUIPE — Sepp Blatter appealed for everyone to “calm down” as he lined up FIFA today with the international trades unions in their concerns over workers’ rights in Qatar.
The president of the world football federation was setting out the next steps over preparations for the 2022 World Cup after a meeting of the executive committee and on the eve of tomorrow’s draw here for next year’s finals in Brazil.
Qatar has come in for a thunderstorm of international criticism over the medieval tied-employment system known as kafala: concerns were exacerbated by the recent case of the Franco-Algerian footballer Zahir Belounis who ‘escaped’ Qatar only by signing off a financial claim against his former club there.
Blatter was mandated by the FIFA executive committee to address the issues and, from his comments here, he was clearly more impressed by the evidence of the international trades unions than by what he learned on a visit to Qatar itself.
After meeting the Emir and Prime Minister and ministry representatives in Qatar, Blatter also discussed the issue with Michael Sommer, German president of the International Trades Union Confederation.
Plotting the roadmap ahead, Blatter said: “I have had the opportunity to meet Michael Sommer in Zurich together with the president of the German federation [Wolfgang Niersbach] and a member of the FIFA exco, Theo Zwanziger.
“I have received documents about what the Qatar authorities are doing now and will do in future . . . we have also received a lot of letters from different organisations including some of FIFA’s member associations. Now we shall go to the attribution of responsibilities of the different parties.”
Blatter indicated that central roles in an evolution of the workers’ rights issue lay partly with FIFA but also with the state of Qatar, all the construction comanies operating there as well as the international labour organisations and other non-governmental organisations.
In the meantime, he added: “We have to calm down. We will identify all the responsibilities . . . and will, by the end of this year or beginning of next year, have further meetings and consultations.
“We will speak with all these organisations then come together and draw up an inventory of where we shall go.
“I’m sure that, at the end, football will be the winner because we can show the world it is possible to create good working conditions. If there is a will then there is a way and we have the will go on on. I have been mandated by the FIFA executive to go there again and find these solutions.”
Progress and postponement
On other political issues Blatter reported progress in Cyprus, where both Greek and Turkish football associations had ratified a memorandum of understanding for integrated competition. However progressing the Kosovo issue had been delayed. A meeting involving Serb football and political leaders had been postponed until January 10.
On other issues, FIFA’s exco approved:
1, the launch of a legacy trust for grassroots football in Brazil, starting with an investment now of $20m and rising to $100m by the end of the 2014 World Cup;
2, an overall 37pc increase in prize money and club payments at the World Cup;
3, hostings awards of the Women’s U-17 World Cup to Jordan in 2016; the Women’s U-20 Cup in 2016 to South Africa; the men’s U-20 Cup to South Korea in 2017; and the men’s U-17 Cup to India in 2017 (a notable first for the Asian sub-continent); and
4, the holding of FIFA Congress in 2016 in Mexico City with 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.
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