SFA defends Qatar match amid human rights row

Activists set up wooden crosses during a protest against alleged Qatari breaches of human rights in front of the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: AP
Activists set up wooden crosses during a protest against alleged Qatari breaches of human rights in front of the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: AP
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THE Scottish FA has defended its decision to stage an upcoming friendly against Qatar in the face of mounting pressure to take action over human rights abuses in the Gulf state.

Scottish fans have announced plans to boycott Friday’s game at Easter Road over revelations 1,200 workers have died building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

The biggest scandal is ignoring the plight of workers in Qatar

Neil Findlay

The Scotland-Qatar game comes as Fifa, the sport’s governing body, is embroiled in a series of scandals over alleged corruption, in part related to the awarding of the tournament to Qatar and Russia in 2018.

Fans have called on the SFA to cancel the game in order to send a message to the Qatari authorities, while Labour MSP Neil Findlay has also submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for the game to be scrapped.

He said: “The conditions that these building workers have to endure in Qatar, when building new stadiums, are nothing more than a modern day scandal. As seen this past week, FIFA is an organisation that is corrupt. But I believe that its biggest scandal is ignoring the plight of building workers in Qatar.

“In Scotland we can register our concerns starting this week by postponing the friendly game taking place between Scotland and Qatar. Failing to do so sends the wrong message.”

However, in a statement the Scottish FA reveals they view the match – sponsored by Qatar Airways – as a “separate concern” to the human rights issues experienced by migrant workers, and the friendly was only arranged with the Gulf state due to their availability as a warm-up ahead of the vital ­European Championship qualifier against Ireland on 13 June. Qatar are currently staging a training camp at the English FA’s St George’s base.

The statement said: “It is important to separate this sporting fixture from the serious human rights issues emanating from Qatar: the game was agreed with the national coach’s wish for a competitive fixture as part of preparations for the forthcoming European Qualifier against Republic of Ireland as of paramount importance.”

The statement goes on to say that the SFA condemns any behaviour that compromises human rights and that they have been in contact with Amnesty International to outline their position.

Pauline Kelly, Amnesty International’s acting Programme Director in Scotland, said: “We do not support a boycott of the Scotland vs Qatar game, but that does not mean we welcome [the game]. Today’s statement from the SFA that they ‘condemn behaviour that comprises human rights’ is a good first step. We look forward to hearing more about their plans to offer practical support.”

Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith has called on the SFA to use the game to put pressure on Qatari authorities. He said: “The situation in Qatar cannot go on. If the match on Friday was a World Cup 2022 game, 62 workers would have died to stage it.”