As a lover of the beautiful game, even though I wish Wales had given a better account of themselves today, every twist and turn of the World Cup in Qatar is unmissable, writes David Little, a Partner in our Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases too.
Even before the tournament started earlier this week Gianni Infantino, 52, the suave Swiss, who became President of FIFA in 2016 on a mission to root out corruption, caused controversy by robustly defended the decision to give the World Cup to Qatar and said his organization had been transformed, “Money simply does not disappear anymore in FIFA,” he said of soccer’s powerful governing body. “Money goes where it has to go, and it goes into football development.” (The former President, Sep Blatter, meanwhile, now claims Qatar shouldn’t have won. “It’s a country that’s too small,” he told a Swiss newspaper group.)
Nonetheless, Qatar’s World Cup has begun and an estimated 5 billion will watch the 64 matches, which is precisely why many of the world’s biggest brands, including Visa, Sony, Coca Cola and McDonald’s, have signed up anyway.
According to the New York Times, when Bloomberg contacted all the 76 main FIFA sponsors none of them had any intention of boycotting Qatar, with Adidas anticipating up to a 400 million Euro sales boost from the tournament.
Yet still there are questions over how FIFA allowed one of the biggest sporting events on the planet to be hosted by a tiny country where homosexuality can land you in jail.
As we have all seen this week, the five European nations wanted to wear rainbow-colored “One Love” armbands to support minority groups amid concerns over Qatar’s treatment of the LGBTQ community in the country, until FIFA said to teams that player wearing non-regulation kit would receive a yellow card. The team photograph of the German squad covering their mouths ahead of their first match on Wednesday, made online and front-page news on most of the world’s newspapers. As the New York Times reported, “The silent act of rebellion resonated for days, even after a shock defeat to Japan.”
Will that shock FIFA?
Who can say? But I suspect this World Cup has a few more twists and turns up its sleeve. And not all of them on the pitch.
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David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him please quote Ref CB363 on either 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is accurate as at 25 November 2022. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.