The Hidden Costs of Stadium Building

The Hidden Costs of Stadium Building

Greg Wang, Staff Writer

Being the host country of the FIFA World Cup is a prestigious title bestowed by FIFA’s Congress. The host country gains the opportunity to hold one of the largest sporting events in the world and attracts the attention of millions around the world. However, this comes at the cost of hidden worker exploitation and abuse as countries build their shiny new stadiums for the event.

By far one of the most attractive parts about hosting the World Cup is the amount of tourists and money it attracts. The FIFA World Cup and the projects needed to prepare for it attract contractors and investors looking to build the massive stadiums needed to hold fans, as well as the housing necessary to accommodate the influx of tourists and players. The host country can reap massive profits as a result of these spectators, which has been reflected in previous World Cups. Likewise, FIFA has gained massive amounts of revenue from the World Cup. FIFA raked in $4.8 billion dollars in revenue from the 2018 World Cup and is expected to make similar amounts at the 2022 World Cup.

In order to supply the labor needed to build the stadiums, Qatar has been recruiting workers in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal. Using the Kafala system, Qatar uses sponsorship-based employment in order to bring in workers. Workers, lured in by hopes of making money to support their families in their home countries, travel to Qatar, where they work for very little money. Additionally, they pay recruitment agents thousands of dollars, often entering into debt before reaching Qatar.

The working conditions are extremely dangerous, as the Qatari desert can reach sweltering temperatures during the summer while being extremely cold at night. Construction work itself is also inherently dangerous, as there are risks attached to working in high areas, especially on scaffolding. Causes of death include blunt force trauma from falling, hanging from suicides, and “natural causes,” which are likely a combination of overexertion, heat, and heart failure. Worse still, migrant workers face a variety of rights abuses in Qatar.

“I am fed up with this place. The work is hard, the camp is filthy and small, and I haven’t received any pay yet,” said Kamal, a scaffolder. 

Workers are crammed into small, filthy rooms in camps, which are often overcrowded with other laborers. They work for a measly wage and face harsh punishments should they try to escape. In fact, in June 2020, Amnesty International claimed migrant workers worked for months with no pay. Furthermore, employers have reportedly taken passports of their workers, leaving them with little choice but to continue working if they wish to return home. The appalling labor conditions have caused more than 6,500 deaths, of which only 37 have been reported by Qatar.

In response to these abuses, Qatar was forced to adopt reforms, which would, in theory, give the workers more rights, such as a minimum wage and the right to change jobs. However, thanks to weak implementation and enforcement, these reforms remain largely ignored and ineffective. Furthermore, Qatar has attempted to roll back these reforms, in order to make the cost of hosting migrant workers cheaper.

Despite repeated campaigning, FIFA has yet to deliver a response to the workers’ rights abuses. It has done nothing to ensure that the World Cup is humane, and these abuses will likely continue as long as the migrant workers are needed.