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Off the pitch lessons from Qatar 2022

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

What are the governance lessons of Qatar ‘22?

Despite an abundance of entertainment on the pitch, this World Cup has been marred by some significant scandals off it. From the underreporting of emissions by Qatari officials to the mistreatment of members of the LGBT community, much of the publicity experienced by spotlight-hungry Qatar has been negative.

However, it is arguably the tournament’s failures of governance that have been most concerning. These were evident at all levels and at all stages, and have proved fatal to the organisers’ claims to create the “most carbon neutral” World Cup yet.

Perhaps inevitably, Qatar’s organising body, the so-called ‘Supreme Committee’ has become something of a parody of opacity and corruption - the twin peaks emblematic of poor governance. This resulted in failings that undermined the tournament’s legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of the world’s football fans even before the opening ceremony, notably the 6500 reported deaths of migrant workers and widespread reports of their inhumane working conditions.

Despite their best endeavours, the unaccountable nature of the Qatari Supreme Committee was never going to endear itself to the legions of fans who consider hosting football’s biggest tournament to be a special privilege. Nor was the country’s draconian glass ceiling preventing 50% of the population participating in the economy and society.

Yet the Qataris are not alone in allowing governance failures to undermine the legitimacy of this world cup. A number of pertinent questions remain for FIFA over the selection of Qatar as hosts. As this world cup illustrates, systemic governance failures inevitably undermine legitimacy and credibility. This should give leaders of businesses of all sizes and in all sectors food for thought.

Disclaimer - the arguments expressed in this article are not the result of England’s premature exit from the tournament.


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