Qatar World Cup: U-M experts can discuss
The 22nd FIFA World Cup, featuring 32 nations—the first soccer competition ever held in the Middle East—has been surrounded by controversy since its announcement.
From views on LGBTQ rights, alleged corruption in the selection process, the economic impact and the country’s treatment of migrant workers, University of Michigan experts are available to comment.
Paolo Pasquariello is a professor of finance whose research interests include international finance and information economics.
“This WC is a net negative for the world economy and global soccer,” he said. “As to the former, the events in Qatar are unlikely to affect the economic trajectory of the Middle East, both because they are unlikely to induce more tourism or business to the region and because of the enormous costs of hosting the events in a country with no prior soccer tradition and infrastructure.
“The WC was assigned to Qatar, over other countries, under dubious circumstances (being investigated by the law). Stadiums were built while exploiting thousands of workers (some of whom died in the process). Participants will be both highly inconvenienced by having to be in Qatar and deprived of their basic civil rights while there. In my record books, this WC will simply not count.”
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Stefan Szymanski is the Stephen J. Galetti Collegiate Professor of Sport Management and co-director of the Michigan Center for Sport Management. He has studied the business and economics of sports for more than 20 years and can discuss the economic impact and legacy of the games.
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Erik Gordon is a clinical assistant professor of business administration. His areas of interest include entrepreneurship and acquisitions, venture capital, private equity, investment banking, transportation, and digital and mobile marketing.
“The Cup won’t directly change the long-term course of Qatar’s economy. Visitors will fill hotels and restaurants and then go home,” he said. “Unless they have a reason to return to Qatar, the economic bump will be big but short-lived. If all goes well, the biggest benefit is to shine a positive light on Qatar and its ability to host a massive, prestigious event.”
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Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, studies the ongoing political change in the Middle East.
“The World Cup being held in the Arab world is an important acknowledgment of the fervent devotion of that region to soccer and the many contributions its teams and fans have made to it,” he said. “It is a global sport, but this is only the second time in a non-Christian country. It also marks the increasing importance of Qatar in world affairs.
“European countries depend on it to supply natural gas to make up for lost supplies from Russia, and the country is playing an important role in diplomacy and peacemaking. There has been controversy about the conditions of the guest workers who built the stadium and related buildings, and workers’ rights certainly need to be further improved. However, Qatar has significantly reformed guidelines from the International Labor Organization.
“Workers coming to Qatar from developing countries who work for three years permanently improve their class standing back home. Their mortality rates in Qatar are probably similar to those they suffered back home. Further, similar controversies did not erupt around venues like Russia, which is a far bigger human rights abuser than Qatar, leading some to suspect that Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism play a role in the controversy.”
Bridgette Carr is a clinical professor of law and founding director of the Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic. She has dedicated her career to advocating for the rights of human trafficking victims and advancing comprehensive anti-trafficking policies.
“Forced labor and human trafficking are often described as invisible or hidden even though exploited labor is used to create many of the goods and services we use daily. The exploitative labor practices in preparation for the World Cup have not been hidden or invisible, yet fans and the sporting world are still participating,” she said.
“What message does this send to exploited workers or individuals willing to exploit workers? Invisibility has never been the real problem; the real problem is our unwillingness to give up the life exploited labor gives all of us. What will it take for all of us to make different choices?”
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Gary Harper is a professor of health behavior and education. His research focuses on the mental and sexual health needs of adolescents and young adults who experience varying degrees of oppression and marginalization, especially Black gay/bisexual young men, transgender and nonbinary youth.
“The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar has once again put a spotlight on the human rights abuses experienced by LGBTQ+ people across the globe,” he said. “Qatar has a longstanding history of criminalization of same-sex behavior among men, with current punishments of up to three years in prison. Despite restrictive laws and practices, FIFA and Qatar’s Supreme Committee have assured the public that all fans, including LGBTQ+ people, will be welcomed at the Men’s World Cup.
“There is great concern that these public statements are primarily performative in nature and not shared by all involved in these games. So for LGBTQ+ World Cup fans, there is a great deal of anxiety regarding actual safety during the games. Since the entire world is watching Qatar until the games end, it is likely that acts of discrimination and harassment will be minimized or underreported while the cameras are on. But what about when the games end? What happens to LGBTQ+ tourists who decide to stay for a vacation or to LGBTQ+ Qataris who live under such oppressive legal and social sanctions every day?
“Although the focus of the games should be on the people who have trained and worked so hard to compete in this international event, we cannot ignore the social and cultural context within which these games are taking place. When FIFA chose Qatar for the 2022 Men’s World Cup, they knew there would be challenges, especially since anti-LGBTQ+ legal and cultural restrictions are not new. World Cup fans of all intersectional identities should have the option of enjoying the games in person without having to worry for their personal safety and security. FIFA took that away from the LGBTQ+ community when choosing Qatar.”
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Stacy-Lynn Sant, assistant professor of sport management, conducts research focusing on the legacy of mega sporting events, bid strategies and the leveraging of these events for long-term benefits to the tourism industry in the host city and region.
“Sport is integral to Qatar’s long-term strategy to diversify its economy and promote itself as an innovative, advanced country,” she said. “Since 2008, Qatar has won bids for prestigious sports events, focused on developing regional athletes and invested in some of the most popular European soccer clubs, all to be seen as an ideal place to live, work and visit. The World Cup, in particular, serves as an important diplomatic tool for forging relationships and improving Qatar’s reputation and status worldwide.
“Qatar was hoping to portray an image of an advanced nation poised to become a regional and global hub for business and tourism. Instead, the World Cup has served as a giant spotlight for its alleged state-sponsored terrorism and its human rights violations, particularly the treatment and deaths of thousands of South Asian migrant workers in the lead-up to the event.
“On account of Qatar’s human rights violations, several major European cities will not screen matches in public spaces, while some large media outlets have opted not to send reporters. Denmark’s team will wear ‘toned-down’ kits in protest, and Australia’s team released a video urging Qatar to abolish laws against same-sex relationships. While some of these actions raise awareness, teams have not deemed the human rights violations serious enough for the ultimate form of protest- withdrawal from the tournament. The games will go on.”
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Puneet Manchanda is the Isadore and Leon Winkelman Professor of Marketing. His expertise includes business in emerging markets, strategy and marketing issues.
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CULTURE AND SPORTS
Andrei Markovits, the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies, co-wrote the books “Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism,” “Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture” and “SPORTISTA: Female Fandom in the United States.” He has written many scholarly articles on various aspects of sports and their cultures.
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Scott Campbell, the Constance F. and Arnold C. Pohs Professor of Telecommunications, can discuss the uses and impact of mobile and social media during the World Cup.
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