FIFA has announced that the 2022 Qatar World Cup will be played out over the winter months of December and November. By the time the first game kicks off, that will be breaking with almost 100 years of tradition, with the tournament usually taking place on a four-year summer cycle.
UPDATE: On May 27th 2015, FIFA officials were arrested under allegations of corruption in Zurich ahead of their annual conference. The original story follows below.
It's got the easily riled football fan in a fit -- FIFA was already accused of corruption in signing on Qatar as the host nation, given the harsh weather conditions of the region and its strictly conservative views. But now this will cause headaches for the local league tournament organisers who plan seasons around the summer international schedule, with high temperatures forcing the scheduling shift for fear of making players ill, if not putting their lives at risk.
Yet even all that is a bit "aww diddums" when you look at the sheer numbers of people already dying just to build the enormous ego monuments to host the tournament. Look at the gravestones of the 1,000+ dead migrant workers, or those left currently struggling to put the insane stadiums together. The conditions really are fatal, there's the proof.
Want to put it in perspective? Here's a chart (via LondonLovesBusiness) that gives an estimated comparison of deaths related to the construction of the Qatar World Cup sites compared to other upcoming major sporting events, both forthcoming and past:
That's mental, right? Sure, the construction industry is comparatively dangerous, anywhere in the world; 42 workers died in the UK on construction jobs between 2013 and 2014. But by March of last year, 1,200 workers had already been killed on 2022 World Cup-related jobs, with the International Trade Union Confederation estimating that 4,000 will be dead before the first game has even kicked off.
According to the Guardian, Nepalese workers were dying at a rate of one every two days during 2014, a toll that didn't even take into account the number of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi migrant workers employed on the sites. While "workplace accidents" account for thirty-four of the recorded deaths according to the Nepalese foreign employment promotion board, 67 were down to cardiac arrest, and eight due to heart attacks.
Construction work is often gruelling, but not enough to trigger such a high heart-related death count. Instead it's thought the unbearable workplace temperatures – with the mercury regularly topping out at 50C – is to blame. Yep, while we value our footballers enough to have them play in the cooler winter months, lowly migrant workers are having to work around the clock under the beating sun regardless of the dangers.
That's despite a government-commissioned investigation by international law firm DLA Piper, which lead to promises to implement safer workplace recommendations listed in a report published in May last year. These, clearly, have not been acted upon. The disregard for human life is astonishing. All so 22 blokes can kick a leather ball around in front of a load of advertising. Football fan or otherwise, that's ludicrous.
This is not ancient Rome or ancient Egypt, building amphitheatres or pyramids on the backs of "expendable" slave labour. This is the 21st century – or so you would think. Yet we're talking about a multi-billion (if not multi-trillion) pound industry, one in which the TV rights can be worth £5 billion for a single local season and in which the most valuable player earns close to £50 million a year alone, building one-use stadia with no viable plans beyond the tournament without a care for human life.
The beautiful game has blood on its hands, and its top officials should reach into their very deep pockets to sort this mess out and make these construction sites safe, should they ever wish to have a clear conscience again. Football fans, on the other hand, should consider the human cost before moaning about a displaced footie schedule.