The Roar
The Roar



Sportswashing and the Qatar World Cup

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Rookie
28th October, 2022

Sportswashing, according to the very trusty source that is Wikipedia, is defined as “a term used to describe the practise of individuals, groups, corporations, or governments using sports to improve reputations tarnished by wrongdoing”.

Basically, the higher-ups using sports to cover up everything they’ve done wrong. It doesn’t take long to find examples of people who are guilty of this.

From the Nazi regime and the 1936 Olympics to Putin’s 2018 World Cup.

However, the word has come into more use with the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and the Gulf nation’s human rights record coming into the spotlight, or, rather, how it should have come into the spotlight.

A more correct way is that their human rights record has come into the shade, protected by the broad tree of everyone they’ve paid to promote their image.

David Beckham is an ambassador (reportedly being paid £150 million for it), Robbie Williams and the Black Eyed Peas are performing there, and Gary Neville has made some questionable documentaries on his well-respected Overlap show.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Everyone I’ve just mentioned are directly endorsing this World Cup and therefore the regime.


It is a regime that can flog you for wearing shorts, can use the death penalty for same-sex marriages, ranks below Russia on the human freedom index, has banned migrant workers from returning home and had thousands of workers die on their watch.

Such celebrities are turning a blind eye to all this human rights abuse. Coupled with their huge influences (combined, Neville, Beckham, and Williams have almost 70 million Instagram followers), this is a huge problem.

Instead of using their platforms for good, they encourage other governments to do the same, to use sports to improve what the world thinks of them.

If nothing is done, we’ll have more World Cups hosted by undemocratic, human rights-abusing nations. Who knows? A World Cup in North Korea? At least Kim Jong-un won’t have to lie anymore about their sporting prowess.

So, what’s the answer? Well, we can’t stop the World Cup in Qatar, that’s inevitable. What needs to happen is a collective response of “No!” to FIFA and to Qatar. Whilst the Australian squad’s message was encouraging, the other countries haven’t done enough.

Wearing a rainbow armband is a good start, but that’s it, it won’t change Qatari laws, it doesn’t stand up to the shameful acts of Qatar.


The Denmark kits next month will be ‘toned-down’, but that doesn’t really tone down what Qatar have done. If enough people boycott it, if enough people criticise and strongly condemn it, then we can show what the people think of the Qatari regime.

Instead, what will most likely happen is World Cup fever will take over us all, and the atrocities will be ignored. Impartial journalists will keep quiet, ex-footballers keen to be employed by FIFA will stay tight-lipped, and celebrities looking for a quick buck will say “Yes!” to human rights abuse.

This is unacceptable and those celebrities need to be criticised. Otherwise, this will all carry on and nations like Qatar will continue to get away with it.

Finally, well done to Gareth Southgate, who looks like he’s getting his England team to boycott any deep stage in the tournament.

Sports opinion delivered daily