Sport & Rights Alliance Raises Concerns over FIFA’s Surprise Selection of UAE to Host 2021 Club World Cup

Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, announced on Wednesday that the global football governing body has selected the United Arab Emirates to host the Club World Cup 2022.

Since 2017, FIFA has made important progress in terms of its human rights responsibilities, including adopting policies that ensure a human rights risk assessment for host countries and holding a transparent stakeholder consultation under FIFA’s Statutes, Human Rights Policy and the reformed Bidding Process for future hosts.

Apparently, FIFA granted this tournament without undertaking the comprehensive human rights assessment and stakeholder consultation set out under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and FIFA’s own Human Rights Policy.

The Sport & Rights Alliance responded on Twitter to share its questions and concerns about the bidding and decision-making processes used to make this critical selection.

The news comes only two years after FIFA chose another country known for its government’s human rights violations to host the same tournament. In 2019, the global football organization announced it had selected China for the 2021 Club World Cup.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition has been changed several times, with the latest update being the decision to host in the UAE.

Human Rights Watch responded in a press release titled “China: FIFA Broke Own Rules for Club World Cup,” saying “FIFA’s surprise selection of China to host the 2021 Club World Cup disregarded its own human rights commitments in the bidding process.”

The two announcements share an eerily-similar lack of transparency and disregard for internationally recognized human rights, which FIFA has a responsibility to respect under international law.

As Human Rights Watch said in 2019, “The awarding of hosting rights comes with a written agreement between FIFA and the host country. But the terms of FIFA’s Club World Cup hosting arrangements with China [and the UAE] have not been made public. Transparency is a key part of the UN Guiding Principles. The International Olympic Committee has made its host city contracts public since 2014.”

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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.