Aussie Tik-Tok user at centre of FIFA World Cup fan furore

Jon-Bernard Kairouz interviews a spectator at the FIFA World Cup.
Paid fans at the FIFA World Cup were the subject of a TikTok video from Australian user Jon-Bernard Kairouz. Picture: TikTok

An Australian comedian has attracted criticism from football fans after uploading a series of Tik Toks purportedly with fans being paid to attend the FIFA World Cup by Qatar. Jon-Bernard Kairouz, whose dubious claim to fame came after 'predicting' daily case numbers during the height COVID-19 lockdowns in NSW, interviewed several people outside World Cup stadiums asking if they had been paid to be there.

His content comes as Qatar has faced criticism over a scheme to pay visitors to the Middle Eastern nation to attend the World Cup and promote positive feedback about the country. A barrage of negative publicity surrounding the scheme has since seen payments stopped by the Fan Leader Network, which offered accomodation and daily allowances.

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The organisation blamed negative media coverage for the cessation of payments, which were described as 'small uplift on your own personal funds to assist with refreshments'.

The scheme was panned by critics of FIFA's decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a decision which has lead to serious scrutiny over human rights abuses carried out in the construction of the seven new stadiums required to host the event.

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One of Kairouz's videos was with a group of fans wearing Brazil gear, several of whom confirmed they had been paid to be there. However some fans raised eyebrows at the editing of the TikToks, suspecting they were selectively chosen.

“I’m not a fan of football, I’m a cricket fan,” one man replied to Kairouz, having been somewhat confused by his initial line of questioning.

It comes after the scheme was criticised by many in the football world, with French star Edouard Rowlandson admitting it was 'bizarre' to see stadiums filled with construction worker, but also adding that it was substantially better than having no spectators at all.

FIFA World Cup in Qatar continues to be beset by controversy

The latest furore surrounding fans at the World Cup comes after the host nation and FIFA were accused of fudging the numbers of spectators in attendance at a number of games during the first week of competition.

An official attendance figure of 59,407 was reported for Morocco's clash against Croatia - which would have meant almost every seat in the Al Bayt Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, would have been filled.

However reports and images uploaded to Twitter by New York Times reporter Tariq Panja showed that was clearly not the case, with vast portions of the stadium going unoccupied for the Group F match. It comes after the attendance figures for several matches on the first day of the World Cup were submitted as being higher than the overall stadium capacity for the venues in which they were played.

A total of four matches earlier this week were recorded as having attendance which exceeded the capacity of the stadiums they were played in, some by several thousand more.

The eyebrow-raising figures have lead to some speculation the numbers have been massaged somewhat, with Pania quipping that the apparently thousands of unseen fans at the Morocco-Croatia game must have been so impossibly small they couldn't be seen.

“Morocco fans making decent sound in Al Khor even though stadium is about half full/empty for this game,” he wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps organisers had tension between having enough accommodation and letting ticket-less fans enter country to buy on arrival? Small local population means games not full.”

The reporter was left absolutely baffled when the official attendance figure was reported. “It isn’t (59,407). Unless there are some tiny, tiny people sitting in those thousands of empty seats,” Panja wrote.

However according to FIFA, there is a perfectly good explanation for the clear discrepancy in the figures. The listed capacity for each stadium is a 'reference capacity' meant to fit FIFA requirements, with the governing body claiming each venue had a greater capacity than shown online.

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