Editor's note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD
candidate at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with
the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights
impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic
About three years ago, the Fédération Internationale de Football
Association (FIFA) adopted a new version of its Statutes,
including a statutory commitment to respect internationally recognized human
rights. Since then, FIFA undertook a human rights journey that has been praised
by various stakeholders in the sports and human rights field. In early June, the
FIFA Congress is scheduled to take a decision that could potentially undo all
positive efforts taken thus far.
FIFA already decided in January 2017 to increase the
number of teams participating in the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48. Shortly
after, discussions began on the possibility to also expand the number of teams for
the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar. Subsequently, FIFA conducted a feasibility
study, which revealed that the expansion would be feasible but require a
number of matches to be hosted in neighbouring countries, explicitly mentioning
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One
does not have to be a human rights expert to be highly alarmed by this list of
potential co-hosting countries. Nevertheless, the FIFA Council approved of the
possibility to expand in March 2019, paving the way for the FIFA Congress to
take a decision on the matter. Obviously, the advancement of the expansion
decision raises serious doubts over the sincerity of FIFA’s reforms and human
rights commitments. More...
Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at
Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the
establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts
of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She
recently published an article in
the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the
revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen
access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.
The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently
underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm
and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final
weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This
blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the
first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...
Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M.
in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to
the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research
Concerns about adverse
human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its
late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar
respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football
had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights
advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA.
In response to growing
criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit
human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment
is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human
rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At
around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding
Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to
further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While
praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the
organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in
place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.
With the 2018 World Cup
in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's
statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true
today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's
activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of
football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information
about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017. More...