Alarming death toll among construction workers for 2022 Qatar World Cup


The 2022 Qatar World Cup should take place in November and December, a FIFA committee has recommended today. Key football officials met in Doha to discuss a number of options due to apprehensions that a summer event would endanger the health of players and fans. Committee chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa also recommended that the 2022 tournament should be shortened by a few days.

Tuesday’s recommendation is expected to be ratified by FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich on 19 and 20 March. However, FIFA has already said there are no plans to reduce the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches.

There are speculations that the event dates would be 26 November to 23 December.

The other dates under consideration were May and January-February. Sheikh Salman has clarified that the November-December solution is best suited in the interest of a smooth football calendar for 2018-2024.

Many of Europe’s top leagues wanted an April-May solution to minimize disruption to their domestic calendar, not to mention the impact on the Champions League and Europa League, but April being Ramadan month for the year has made it difficult for the option to be weighed in positive lights.

However the preparations for the grand tournament is already taking a toll on the lives of construction workers.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) had warned that the construction frenzy in Qatar ahead of 2022 World Cup is on course to take lives of at least 4,000 workers before the start of the event if the government makes urgent reforms.

The construction workers in the region comprise mostly of immigrants from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and India.

The Guardian reports that Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014 – despite Qatar’s promises to improve their working conditions. The figure excludes deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers, raising fears that if fatalities among all migrants were taken into account the toll would almost certainly be more than one a day, owing mostly to working long hours in temperatures usually exceeding 50°C.

Human Rights organisations in Qatar has accused the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards putting any proper reform in place.

Surely construction is a hazardous industry; but by March of last year, 1200 workers had already been killed on 2022 World Cup-related jobs. The following image (via @daniel_barker) gives an estimated comparison of deaths related to the construction of the 2022 Qatar World Cup sites compared to other upcoming major sporting events, both forthcoming and past:

construction workers

Construction work is often grueling, but not enough to trigger such a high heart-related death count as are reported in Qatar. Instead it is the unbearable workplace temperatures that is to blame.  The mistreatment of migrant workers in the Gulf, including the late or non-payment of wages, poor quality accommodation and the lack of the freedom to change jobs or leave the country, has attracted severe criticism from human rights groups in the past.

While we value our footballers enough to have them play in the cooler winter months, lowly migrant workers are having to work around the clock under the beating sun regardless of the dangers.

This is not an ancient or mideaval Empire, building pyramids or amphitheatres on the backs of expendable slave labour. This is a trillion pound industry, one in which the simple TV rights can be worth £10 billion for a single season and in which the most valuable player earns close to £50 million a year alone, building one-use stadia with no viable plans beyond the tournament without a care for human life.