Soccer-Southgate questions benefit of Qatar World Cup boycott

by Reuters
Tuesday, 29 March 2022 10:04 GMT

England Training - St George's Park, Burton Upon Trent, Britain - March 25, 2022 England manager Gareth Southgate during training Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington

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As rights groups warn that Qatari laws discriminate against women and LGBTQ+ people, the England football manager considers the impact of boycotting the World Cup

March 25 (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate said boycotting this year’s World Cup in Qatar over human rights issues would not achieve much overall and the decision was not up to him or his players.

Human Rights Watch has said that Qatari laws discriminate against women and LGBT individuals, while a report by Amnesty International found that practices such as withholding migrant workers’ salaries and charging them to change jobs were still rife.

The government of Qatar has said in the past that its labour system is a work in progress but has denied the accusations in the Amnesty report.

“It is possible but I don’t think that is a decision myself and the players can make,” Southgate told reporters on Friday when asked if England could boycott the World Cup.

“My understanding is that the discussions that the FA has had with organisations like Amnesty International and they feel there would be more change if we go and these things are highlighted so that is guiding the thinking.

“I don’t really know what (a boycott) achieves... the tournament would still go ahead. I think as soon as we have entered the tournament, that is the point you decide. We’ve known for years it was going to be in Qatar.”

England, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will host Switzerland on Saturday and Ivory Coast three days later in friendly games at Wembley.

Captain Harry Kane said earlier this week that England players will aim to use their platform to shine a light on issues surrounding the tournament and Southgate said on Friday his team would be criticised regardless of what action they might take.

“The fact, unfortunately, is the biggest issue, which is non-religious and non-cultural, is what happened with the building of the stadiums – and there is nothing we can do about that either, sadly,” Southgate added.

“If (the stance) is against Qatar as a country, then we are intertwined with other issues like we have seen with Russia with all sorts of investment in our country... We are in such a complex world with deals as we have seen in Saudi Arabia recently.”

Many sports bodies have moved events and suspended Russian teams and athletes following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Premier League club Newcastle United are owned by a consortium involving the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the country executed 81 men in the kingdom’s biggest mass execution in decades.

“On the one hand people are talking about the investment in Newcastle, on the other we are going asking them to reduce oil prices so we can get our petrol cheaper,” Southgate added.

“This is complicated. I know the issues themselves aren’t but the repercussions and diplomatic relations are extremely complicated.”

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru Editing by Toby Davis)

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