Sport & Rights Alliance Backs Human Rights Advisory Board Call for FIFA to be Accountable on Human Rights

(Nyon, Switzerland, April 14, 2020) — FIFA should back its  2017 Human Rights Policy by ensuring accountability, transparency and remedy at the highest levels of football, a landmark report by FIFA’s independent human rights advisory board has recommended.

This recommendation has the full endorsement of the Sport & Rights Alliance – a coalition of non-governmental organizations and trade unions that has been instrumental in advancing human rights, press freedom and justice through sport.  

“The report’s single recommendation makes it clear that FIFA needs to act to entrench human rights or risk not keeping its own human rights promises and commitments,” said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association.

In its Fourth Report released earlier last week, the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board, consisting of high-level experts on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, said that FIFA’s human rights efforts have now “come to an important cross-roads that require FIFA to deepen its efforts to embed its human rights commitments into the governance of global football or risk losing the ground that has been gained.”

The report calls for institutional change at FIFA to ensure that the human rights of the millions of people affected by FIFA’s activities are protected. The report recommends that FIFA:

  • Establish a functioning accountability mechanism with the mandate, expertise, capacity, and incentives to realize human rights in football;
  • Ensure that it is appropriately staffed and resourced;
  • Rolls out updated human rights training for football’s key leaders and governors; and
  • Sets clear milestones to meet its human rights commitments.

The FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board has provided essential advice to FIFA to systemically and actively advance human rights in football. It has also played a key role in identifying and spotlighting major harms, as with the millions of female fans in Iran banned from stadiums and sexual abuse of  women players in Afghanistan.

The report calls out FIFA for awarding the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup to China without following appropriate human rights due diligence. “The fact that the decision happened on a tighter than normal timeline does not change the expectation that some appropriate form of human rights due diligence will still be carried out,” the advisory board said.

“When sports are safe to play and watch again following the coronavirus pandemic, football should be rebuilt better, said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “FIFA should turn its promises and policies into action to protect the rights of women, children and everyone affected by FIFA decisions.”

The Sport and Rights Alliance’s mission is to promote the rights and well-being of those most affected by human rights risks associated with the delivery of sport. As a global coalition of leading NGOs and trade unions, the SRA works together to ensure sports bodies, governments and other relevant stakeholders give rise to a world of sport that protects, respects, and fulfills international standards for human rights, labour rights, and anti-corruption.

Amnesty International 

Human Rights Watch 

Football Supporters Europe 

International Trade Union Confederation 

UNI Global Union

World Players Association

Committee to Protect Journalists

ILGA World (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association)

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Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for human development, unity, and freedom, but too often it instead brings harm to its athletes, fans, and communities. We exist to uncover and rectify the many abuses that exist both in and around sport. We aim to transform sports into an authentic force for good.