World Cup 2022: Qatar paying fans to attend and promote matches, as well as report negative comments

(Graphic by Michael Wagstaffe)

Qatar reportedly paid for fans across the world to attend the 2022 World Cup this month, according to The New York Times.

Fans will reportedly be treated to what sounds like an all-expenses trip that will include free airfare, free match tickets and free lodging. However, Qatar also reportedly asked those fans to sign contracts that required them to sing chants, post positive accounts on social media and report posts critical of Qatar.

Here are two excerpts obtained by the Times regarding what Qatar expects from those who signed up for the trip to the World Cup:

"We are not asking you to [be] a mouthpiece for Qatar, but it would obviously not be appropriate for you to disparage Qatar, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (or other relevant entities related to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022) or the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. We know you have your own opinions, and your own style, so based on the facts we present to you, share them in a manner that suits you.

"You agree to report any offensive, degrading or abusive comments to the SC and, if possible, to take a screenshot of those comments and then promptly delete them. All other comments whether challenging or celebratory about the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 may of course remain publicly visible at your discretion."

Qatar downplayed this report. Ahsan Mansoor, the director of fan engagement in Qatar, told the Times "there is no obligation to promote or do anything."

“They don’t have any formal or contractual association with the World Cup," Mansoor added, "and they are not ambassadors for it."

How many fans will be paid?

The Associated Press also reported that up to 1,600 fans with representatives from all 32 qualifying teams were recruited for this program, and part of their agreement includes a song at the opening ceremony.

How did Qatar manage to find people from every country in the World Cup? The country's organizing group – also known as the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – said they corresponded through a “Fan Leader Network” in 59 countries.

This is partially true: The Times reported that the committee did ask national federations around the world to be put in contact with top fan groups for their respective countries. But it sounds as though the way in which Qatar asked was vague at its best and duplicitous at its worst.

England reportedly added a sign-up form for this program on behalf of Qatar on its official fan club website but only found out it was an expenses-paid trip later.

“We were told this was an opportunity to engage with fans from all competing nations to ensure that the voice of supporters was clearly heard in the planning for the World Cup, and that many international football associations were being approached,” England’s Football Association said in a statement. “We have had no more involvement with the scheme [since posting the sign-up], and no sight of the ‘code of conduct’ or any of the terms and conditions of involvement.”

This is not the first time Qatar paid fans to attend sporting events. In 2019, Qatar reportedly bused migrant workers and children to fill empty seats at Khalifa International Stadium during the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Qatar controversies continue

There have been repeated controversies surrounding the World Cup in Qatar.

Migrant worker exploitation has been the biggest scandal in the lead-up to the World Cup as well. There have been misleading reports as to how many migrants have died building World Cup stadiums as well as conversations about mistreatment and pseudo-slavery.

Lusail Stadium, an 80,000-set venue, reportedly received poor reviews from fans who attended a match in September. Attendants at the time said the stadium didn't supply enough water, have enough bathrooms or have good air conditioning. Fans also said that public transportation to and from the stadium was bad.

Some LGBTQ fans are also afraid to travel this year because of the country's laws that criminalize homosexuality, despite FIFA and Qatar’s Supreme Committee's assertion that “everybody's welcome” to attend.

Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup later this month. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup later this month. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images) (GABRIEL BOUYS via Getty Images)