Ever since December 2, 2010, when it was announced that Qatar would host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, allegations of corruption, claims of a "bought World Cup" and strong condemnations of the country's treatment of migrant workers have been in the spotlight. Now, however, the World Cup is just weeks away and despite all the voices raised over the years, the grand opening ceremony will take place at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on Sunday 20 November.
But how do the fans really feel ahead of a World Cup that will be kicking off with the host nation taking on Ecuador?
Together with Blankspot we asked over 30,000 supporters worldwide through our app on their feelings ahead of the World Cup. Will they be watching the games? How do they feel about FIFA? Do they believe that migrant workers will get improved rights? And what demands do they think there should be on nations ahead of hosting major tournaments in the future?
For every football fan the World Cup is something very special. The tournament comes around only every fourth year and it’s the biggest stage with the biggest stars. This could be the World Cup where Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the sport’s greatest ever, could crown their careers with historical gold medals just like it could be the tournament in which Kylian Mbappé leads his country to a second title in a row.
A World Cup has probably been the reason for many of us to fall in love with football and either if it was the “Wingless Wonders” of England back in 1966, Maradona in 1986, Zinedine Zidane in 1998 or Germany’s thrashing of Brazil in 2014 – you probably have one of your fondest football memories from this historic tournament.
That 79% will still be watching the tournament is therefore a number hard to set in to perspective or to debate. Some key factors here are i.e. if you only follow club football and not national teams. Or if you only watch women’s football and not the men’s game. There’s of course also a key factor of whether your nation is in the tournament or not. Just to highlight this only 68% of Swedish football fans (with a national team that haven’t qualified) say that they will watch the tournament – while 84% of the Danes (with a team in the tournament) will. This while the countries more or less agree completely on other questions.
Even though many may watch it it’s still worth highlighting that four out of five football fans feel that they can’t support the decision to host the biggest tournament of them all in a country like Qatar.
61% disapprove on Qatar hosting the World Cup while 18% say they don’t have an opinion on it. That leaves only 21% of the over 30,000 respondents in favor of the tournament being hosted in Qatar.
It was already in September 2013 that the British newspaper The Guardian published an investigation finding that thousands of Nepalese workers in Qatar faced exploitation and abuse that amounted to “modern-day slavery”. In February 2021 the same newspaper published another investigation which found out that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup.
Over 80% of the football fans preparing to watch the World Cup are aware of the criticism that has been made in regards of the situation for the migrant workers but only 11% think that the situation for migrant workers will be better after the World Cup.
The situation for migrant workers have already been heavily debated with spotlights being pointed towards the problems surrounding the World Cup. But how will things be looking when the circus leaves the town? With the conditions already questioned it could be bad enough that 53% thinks they will remain the same. But 22% also think the conditions will be even worse…
Neighbors’ don’t agree
While only 11% of the football fans across the world thinks that the conditions for migrant workers will improve it is worth pointing out that neighbor country Saudi Arabia thinks otherwise. Here does 59% think that conditions for migrant workers will improve after the World Cup.
Poll results 2016:
Don’t know: 12%
This looks a lot like the poll we did together with Transparency International back in February 2016 where it was actually the exact same approval number as of today. 19% said they had confidence in FIFA back in 2016 and the same figure can be found here.
Gianni Infantino was named the President of FIFA just days after our survey back in 2016 and the question is how much him and his crew will celebrate that 1% change that has moved from that they don’t have confidence to now not really know whether they have or not. Taking over from Sepp Blatter who was forced away due to all the scandals around him and FIFA at the time, you would expect that Infantino could do better than that.
It's also notable to take into consideration that football is being played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries but over 80% can’t say that they have confidence in the game’s governing body.
While FIFA has urged participating countries and players to "Focus on the football", as written in a letter to all the FA's ahead of the tournament, many fans feel that players and coaches should keep raising their voices on human rights.
Countries have raised their voices in different ways ahead of the World Cup and fans thinks it’s important that they do so (81% agrees). I.e. Australia published a video that highlighted the damning way in which Qatar continues to treat migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people. England captain Harry Kane and nine other captains of European nations will wear One Love captains armbands which includes a "heart containing colors representative of all backgrounds" at the tournament and Hummel, the kit supplier of Denmark, have designed plain red jerseys as the manufacturer wishes "not to be visible" at the World Cup.
Whether you approve or disapprove on the World Cup being hosted in Qatar it’s just a little too late to make a change to it now. But when asking football fans around the world it’s overwhelming numbers (88%) that wants to make it mandatory for applicant countries for future tournaments that they comply to the fullest with the human rights as defined by the UN.
The 2026 World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico and the U.S while we are still waiting for an announcement on the 2030 tournament.
The plan is that the announcement will be made at the FIFA Congress in 2024 and at the moment we have confirmed bids from Morocco, Spain/Portugal/Ukraine, Uruguay/Paraguay/Argentina/Chile and also the cross-confederation bid from Greece, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
49% of the Saudi Arabian respondents think it should be mandatory to comply with the UN’s declaration of human rights while 89% of the football fans in the U.S, one of the hosts for the 2026 tournament, thinks it should be mandatory.
Notably Amnesty International holds that the death penalty, which is still a legal penalty in 27 states across the U.S, breaches human rights. In particular article 3 which states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
For more data and results from specific countries please contact Cecilia Nadj at email@example.com.
The survey was shown in the Forza Football app from the 20th of October 2022 and was live for two weeks, the poll had 31,300 unique participants when it was completed. Football fans from over 190 countries were represented amongst the responses, the majority of which from Europe and the US.