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
It has been more
than seven years since the FIFA Executive Committee awarded the 2022
World Cup to Qatar. And yet only in November 2017 did the Qatari government
finally agree to dismantle the controversial kafala system, described by
many as modern-day slavery. Meanwhile, hundreds of World Cup-related migrant
workers have reportedly been exposed to a wide range of abusive practices such
as false promises about the pay, passport confiscation, or appalling working
and living conditions.
On top of that, some workers have paid the highest price – their life. To a
certain extent, all this could have been avoided if human rights had been taken
into account when evaluating the Qatari bid to host the tournament. In such a
case, Qatar would not have won the bidding contest without providing a
convincing explanation of how it intends to ensure that the country's poor human rights record
will not affect individuals, including migrant workers, contributing to the
delivery of the World Cup. An explicit commitment to abolish the kafala system could have formed an
integral part of the bid.
Urged by Professor
John Ruggie and his authoritative recommendations,
in October 2017 FIFA decided to include human rights within the criteria for
evaluating bids to host the 2026 World Cup, following similar steps taken
earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
and UEFA in the context
of the Olympic Winter Games 2026 and the Euro 2024 respectively. This two-part
blog critically examines the role human rights play in the new bidding
regulations adopted by the IOC, UEFA, and FIFA. The first part sheds light on
the IOC and UEFA. The second part then takes a closer look at FIFA and aims to
use a comparative analysis to determine whether the new bidding regulations are
robust enough to ensure that selected candidates abide by international human
IOC: Olympic Winter Games
About the host selection
Compared to the past, cities bidding to host the 2026 Games could expect
lower costs, simplified procedures, and more assistance provided by the IOC.
All interested cities
might enter a Dialogue Stage
and engage with the IOC to learn more about the benefits and responsibilities
associated with the hosting and staging of the Games. Although the Dialogue
Stage is non-committal, cities that join are supposed to present their
consolidated Games concepts,
outlining their vision, long-term plan alignment, or initial financial
strategy, as well as providing information with regard to a potential
referendum. These consolidated
concepts, together with the IOC's own research, will serve as a basis for a
preliminary report exploring the capacity of interested cities to deliver
successful Games. The IOC Executive Board
will review this report and recommend to the IOC Session which cities should be
invited to the Candidature Stage.
The IOC Session will designate Candidate Cities in October 2018 during its
meeting in Buenos Aires.
will then have until 11 January 2019 to prepare and submit their Candidature
Files together with an initial set of core guarantees.
In their Candidature Files, Candidate Cities shall provide answers to a variety
of questions as set out in the Candidature Questionnaire,
covering areas such as sustainability and legacy, transport, accommodation,
safety and security, finance, or marketing. Thereafter, Candidate Cities will
be visited by the IOC Evaluation Commission
that is tasked with conducting an in-depth assessment of each bid and producing
a report to help the IOC Session elect the most suitable candidate. The Host
City of the 2026 Games will be elected in September 2019.
Human rights as selection criteria
is paid to human rights in the Candidature Questionnaire. Candidate Cities are
only required to provide a guarantee whereby the national government and
relevant local authorities undertake to respect and protect human rights and
ensure that any violation of human rights is remedied ''in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and
regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all
internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in
the Host Country''.
This language is somewhat ambiguous because when defining human rights that
should be respected and protected in connection with the hosting and staging of
the Games, the guarantee first refers to human rights applicable in the Host
Country and only then to the United Nations Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).
The latter make clear that the responsibility of business enterprises to
respect human rights extends to specific international treaties and other
instruments. However, some of these
treaties could be inapplicable in the Host Country if not ratified. This would
make the guarantee to some extent self-contradictory. Apart from the guarantee,
the IOC does not ask for any other human rights-related information from
Candidate Cities. In the absence of such information, it is difficult to see
how the Evaluation Commission
will assess the Candidate Cities' capacity to respect and protect human rights.
UEFA: Euro 2024
About the host selection process
While the Euro
2020 will be a bit of an experiment with games scheduled to take place in 12
different cities across the continent, the Euro 2024 returns to its classic
format as only one member association will host the tournament. In March 2017,
UEFA confirmed that it would be either Germany or Turkey.
The next step for both member associations is to submit their Bid Dossiers to
UEFA by no later than 27 April 2018.
In principle, the bidders must demonstrate in their Bid Dossiers that they meet
all Tournament Requirements.
Importantly, UEFA reserves the right to appoint independent consultants when
evaluating bids. A written evaluation
report on each bid will be circulated in September 2018 before the UEFA
Executive Committee finally decides which member association will host the Euro
Human rights as
UEFA requires that the bidders and then the Host Association
respect, protect, and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms, including
the rights of workers and children, in line with international treaties and
other instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work, the Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or the Convention on the Rights of
In order to meet this obligation, the bidders should in particular seek to
culturally embed human rights, proactively address human rights risks, engage
with relevant stakeholders, and implement means of reporting and
accountability. The bidders' capacity to
respect, protect, and fulfil human rights will be evaluated based on their
human rights strategy that must be included in their Bid Dossiers.
As part of this strategy, the member associations bidding to host the Euro 2024
should explain how they are going to integrate the UN Guiding Principles in
their activities related to the organisation of the tournament.
While no further details are given about the required content of this strategy,
UEFA suggests that a successful bid should not fail to: (i) outline proposed
measures aimed at preventing human rights abuses, in particular child labour in
supply chains and violations of workers' rights; (ii) provide evidence of
meaningful consultation with vulnerable groups; or (iii) describe grievance
mechanisms that will be available for victims of human rights abuses.
Unlike UEFA, the IOC has attracted widespread
criticism for being involved with negative human rights impacts.
Nevertheless, it is the former who gives more weight to human rights in its new
bidding regulations. This is even more surprising given that the IOC introduced
its bidding regulations later than UEFA. It seems that the IOC deliberately
avoids including human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host
the Olympic Games, hoping that this would encourage more cities to participate
in the host selection process. Further reflections on human rights as selection criteria in bidding regulations for mega-sporting events will be presented in the second part of this blog that will focus on FIFA and provide some comparative perspectives.