BRUSSELS: Michael Van Praag is the FIFA presidential candidate who offers the best hope for the migrant workforce preparing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, according to the International Trade Union Confederation.

The international labour organisation, a long-time critic of the World Cup award to the Gulf state by the world football federation, drew its assessment from opinion polls commisioned in the home nations of the four candidates for the FIFA leadership.

Dutch federation chairman Van Praag, outgoing FIFA Asaian vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan and Portugal’s former World Player of the Year Luis Figo are all challenging Sepp Blatter’s bid for a fifth term in office.

The election will be staged at FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29.

All three challengers have spoken of a need to root out corruption and install human and workers’ right standards at FIFA.

According to the ITUC Van Praag and the Dutch federation have made the most concrete statements on Qatar’s notorious system of worker exploitation and the need for FIFA to act.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: “FIFA can save itself from the catastrophe of a World Cup built on modern slavery in Qatar, by electing a candidate who will act decisively to support human rights.

“Prince Ali has also spoken strongly on the issue but only one candidate, Michael Van Praag, has put human rights in his official election manifesto.

“On that basis Mr Van Praag offers the best hope today that FIFA will finally put real pressure on Qatar to reform its medieval labour laws.”

Burrow acknowledged that Prince Ali had, like Van Praag, committed himself to reform of FIFA’s governance and also to include labour and human rights provisions in future bids for major events, though Figo’s commitments on human rights appeared less clear.

Long-held concerns

Trade unions first raised concerns with FIFA about labour exploitation connected to the World Cup more than ten years ago.

ITUC commissioned an Ipsos MORI opinion poll in the countries of the four FIFA candidates.

A majority of respondents thought that, if the government of Qatar did not amend its laws to help minimise accidents and the mortality rate of the construction workers working on World Cup infrastructure, that FIFA should reverse its award.

The Ipsos MORI survey carried out between 13 April and 2 May 2015 found :

  • Seven out of 10 respondents  in Switzerland, home of FIFA and Blatter , believed FIFA should reverse its decision to award the World Cup to Qatar; the Swiss were most supportive of FIFA reversing the decision.
  • Nearly two thirds (64pc) of those questioned in the Dutch homeland of Van Praag, believed FIFA should reverse its decision;
  • More than half of respondents in Portugal, home to Figo, also believed FIFA should reverse its decision; and
  • In Jordan, home to Prince Ali, opinion was divided with three in ten (27pc) undecided,  49pc believing FIFA should not reverse its decision while 24pc thought it should be reversed.

Burrow added:  “This poll shows there is still a great deal of public disquiet about a 2022 World Cup built on gross exploitation of migrant labour and the appalling death and injury toll.

“Even in Jordan, where we would expect strong public support for the first World Cup in the Arab world, only half the people say it should go ahead regardless of labour rights, and three in 10 remain undecided.

“All four candidates for the FIFA Presidency need to recognise just how much FIFA is under the spotlight on labour rights.”