Our work at The Sport & Rights Alliance is crucial to ensuring affected people are part of the discussion and represented in international forums, holding sport governing bodies accountable, and increasing the cost of inaction through media attention and campaigns.
Achieving Justice for Individual Cases
We have driven significant impact by bringing forward solidarity cases in order to challenge remedy and governance and bring about systemic change. Through campaigning, providing behind-the-scenes support, coordination, and pressure, we have contributed to some of the most significant achievements in defending and advancing human rights in the last six years.
Abuse of Child Athletes in Japan (2020)
In 2020, Human Rights Watch and the Japanese affiliates from World Players combined efforts to deliver an important research report and advocacy campaign around child abuse in sports in Japan. In 2021, the SRA also supported the #AthletesAgainstAbuse campaign and the release of the “Reporters’ Guide for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games” to drive awareness and increase pressure on Japan in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Navid Afkari (2020)
We supported the World Players Association campaign to save Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari from execution, which centered around pressuring the IOC to make a public statement around the case and getting media attention. We supported World Players behind the scenes by coordinating information-sharing and logistics between partners and key stakeholders.
Discriminatory Rules in Baku UEFA Final (2019)
We successfully challenged the mandatory HIV declaration imposed by the government in Azerbaijan. It was argued that this is a breach on the rights of the fans and supporter groups to attend the games. UEFA effectively pressured the country’s leaders to take down the requirement.
Iran Open Stadiums (2019)
Overturning the ban on women and girls entering stadiums in Iran is an important impact of the Sport & Rights Alliance. The #OpenStadiums and Blue Girl campaign brought together fan groups, Human Rights Watch, World Players Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists. We were able to successfully pressure FIFA to sit at the gates and ensure women were able to enter the stadiums and cheer on their teams.
Afghan Survivors of Sexual Assault (2018)
We coordinated a public campaign and delivered support for women and girls that have been sexually assaulted in Afghanistan. This case has triggered change in FIFA’s policies on witness protection and survivor-led investigations.
We coordinated a global campaign to save Hakeem Al-Arabi from extradition, an Australian footballer of Bahraini descent arrested in Thailand in 2018. By being present at Hakeem’s hearing and other efforts, we drove FIFA to take direct action — resulting in Hakeem’s release in February 2019. Learn more about the fight in this short documentary.
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and FIFA’s Hijab Ban (2017)
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is a female Muslim American former basketball player for the University of Memphis. In 2010, she became the first NCAA Division I player to wear a hijab on the court. She was blocked from pursuing her professional basketball career due to a FIBA rule that banned headscarves in international competitions. We supported her fight and advocated for Muslim women’s right to play. In 2017, she was honored with the Freedom from Fear Award by UNI Global Union for her successful campaign to have FIBA’s hijab ban overturned.
Driving Impact on Policy and Governance
In addition to supporting individual human rights cases, the Sport & Rights Alliance also focuses on the advancement of human rights in the world’s most influential sport governing bodies over the long term. We use our vast network of sports and human rights stakeholders, as well as public media channels, to advocate for and advise on the inclusion of and compliance with international human rights.
We have effectively influenced the first inclusion of human rights and compliance on the Host City Contract (HCC) for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games. We also played a key role in the consultations conducted for the report on the development of an IOC human rights strategy, performed by independent experts, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Rachel Davis.
We played a significant role in the adoption of Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes, setting up the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board, the 2026 HCC and building internal capacity on human rights. Our advocacy efforts also resulted in FIFA dropping its expansion plans for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Today, upholding, protecting and promoting human rights is mentioned as central to the Commonwealth Games Federation. We have served as a “critical friend” and key influencer for the CGF to adopt its human rights policy.
We have actively commented on UEFA’s bidding documents and engaged in a constructive dialogue until a final document was approved — resulting in the inclusion of human rights in UEFA’s 2024 bidding criteria.