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FIFA disbanded human rights board and did not replace it with independent advisers | World News

FIFA disbanded its human rights board two years ago and did not act on a plea to urgently replace it with new independent advisers particularly providing scrutiny of the Qatar World Cup, Sky News can reveal.

The downplaying of the need for independent human rights audits raises questions about FIFA’s commitment to ensuring there is not exploitation and discrimination associated with global football events it organises.

A leading football anti-discrimination activist said FIFA needs to regain the confidence of people who feel human rights checks have been abandoned.

Concerns about rights abuses in Qatar saw FIFA in 2017 – a year into Gianni Infantino’s presidency – create the human rights advisory board. Its initial mandate was renewed by FIFA for another two years in 2019 before the body was disbanded.

In a final report to FIFA in February 2021, which has not been previously reported, the board said: “We believe there is an urgent need for a body to provide ongoing and independent evaluation of FIFA’s human rights efforts through the entire life cycle of the FWC 2022.”

It also recommended that FIFA “move to embed human rights oversight within its internal governance structures” to “gain the trust of stakeholders”.

But FIFA revealed to Sky News, following questions, that it was only today its ruling council during a meeting in Qatar approved the formation of a new human rights and social responsibility sub-committee.

No names of members were ready to be provided – unlike the previous independent human rights board which published details of the experts in labour rights, anti-corruption, unions and sponsors.

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The controversies surrounding the Qatar World Cup

The lack of apparent independent rigorous rights scrutiny of Qatar from FIFA’s side did not follow key advice of the human rights board, which did however praise the governing body for some “substantial action” in its final report in 2021.

But while acknowledging progress in Qatar, the report said “the potential for severe impacts remains, whether on migrant workers’ rights in the construction sector and in other key sectors connected to the tournament such as hospitality …or in relation to other significant human rights risks during the hosting of the tournament, including for LGBTQ+ people.”

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview - Doha, Qatar - November 5, 2022 General view of fans ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari/File Photo

FIFA stayed publicly silent early in the tournament as fans were detained or blocked at stadiums for having rainbow hats and clothing.

The head of European football’s leading anti-discrimination organisation said FIFA has not done enough work on human rights.

FARE network executive director Piara Powar told Sky News: “It’s quite clear that since the abolition of the human rights … committee that it had advising them internally, there hasn’t been a level of scrutiny that there could have been.

“External people can offer insights, suggestions, ideas as to how human rights due diligence, mitigations and other aspects of human rights work can be incorporated into a tournament like this.

“I think it’s pretty clear that FIFA needs to start to make some big statements on human rights to try and get the confidence of the people who feel that human rights were abandoned for this World Cup and seek some reassurances, and give some reassurances to people, that there will be future tournaments organised to a good standard.”

Read more:
FIFA chief Gianni Infantino secures backing to potentially extend presidency until 2031
The half-in, half-out attitude to the World Cup exposes the contradictions of international diplomacy
Why the 2022 tournament is so controversial – from migrant worker deaths to LGBT rights

Mr Infantino was not made available for any interviews throughout the World Cup, until using a news conference two days before Sunday’s final between Argentina and France to insist “we are defending human rights”.

In a later statement to Sky News, the governing body said: “FIFA will work during the coming months to fully establish the Human Rights and Social Responsibility Sub-Committee, including with respect to the integration of external experts.

“This will complement the manifold issue-specific collaborations and engagements the FIFA Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Department undertakes with external stakeholders such as UN agencies, international unions or civil society organisations in various fields.”

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