FIFA, the organization in charge of soccer across the globe, is not having a good year. Last week, 14 FIFA officials were arrested on racketeering and corruption charges. It turns out that everyone’s suspicions that that the group awards the World Cup to the highest bidding nation are probably correct (and it doesn’t help that one official defended himself by citing an article from The Onion).
On top of that, FIFA is under fire over the labor conditions for construction workers in Qatar, the site of the 2022 World Cup. Current estimates put the death toll at 1,200 to 1,400 migrant workers since Qatar’s successful bid in 2010. In addition, workers are paid dramatically low wages, and employers regularly withhold even the paltry wages workers are due, making the construction sites effective slave camps. Workers also need permission from their employers to leave Qatar, meaning that many are held without their will.
FIFA has said that its hands are tied in Qatar because it doesn’t control working conditions. That’s not entirely true. It could set labor standards that would apply to all World Cup hosts or even threaten Qatar with revoking the 2022 World Cup. But FIFA isn’t likely to do that until it feels economic pressure. And one of the best ways to hit FIFA’s wallet (if you don’t have a couple of million dollars to throw around in bribes) is to go after its sponsors–companies like Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Budweiser, McDonalds, and Visa that care more about their brand.
The UK organization Play Fair Qatar has started a petition to FIFA’s sponsors. If you want to help spread the word, some users on Reddit have taken to creating unofficial spoofs of the corporate logos of the sponsors that highlight their complicity in funding what is now projected to be 4,000 migrant worker deaths in Qatar.
It might not be feasible to expect millions of people around the world to boycott the 2022 international tournament for the world’s most popular sport. And even if that were to happen, FIFA wouldn’t feel the impact for another seven years. But if companies are threatened with mass boycotts over their support of FIFA and if they decide to pull their support, FIFA might change its attitude toward Qatar.