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Qatar has so much to learn from our Games

The contrast could not be greater.

As competitors, spectators and television audiences all over the world enjoy the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, ever more harrowing tales of exploitation, corruption, abuse and injustice emerge from Qatar, the host nation for the 2022 football World Cup and the richest country in the world.

The differences in working practices did not come about by accident. Only in 1974 after Harold Wilson's Labour Government put the radical and progressive Health and Safety at Work Act on the statute book did workers' conditions in the UK dramatically improve. Good working practices cannot ever be taken for granted and, when plaintive calls to be rid of bureaucracy and health and safety regulations are heard, they should be ignored.

Glasgow 2012 and London 2014 can be a source of pride to everyone involved. Not one life was lost in the construction pojects for these Games. Everyone employed was paid at least the minimum wage and anyone employed by Glasgow City Council earned the Glasgow Living wage, more than one pound higher than the minimum. Glasgow Council should take a bow.

From the outset, Glasgow 2014 rightly pledged to adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Health and safety should be paramount. Lives should not be expendable in the name of profit or sport.

Why, then, is the sporting community, and the football world in particular, tolerating the iniquitous and inhumane practices in Qatar? Hundreds of migrant workers have died in construction accidents and traffic collisions. Distressed workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal have expired in horrendous conditions.

Contractors appear to be a law unto themselves, breaching rules set down by Qatar's World Cup organising committee. Migrant workers have no rights: they have their passports taken away; they can go home only with the permission of their employer or sponsor under the kafala system of labour sponsorship; they live in squalid, crowded conditions; some have not been paid for a year; and many who have, earned less than 50p a day.

If workers' rights can be protected in the UK, why not Qatar, a country the same size as Yorkshire, with boundless wealth and a desperation to be regarded as advanced? The new cities, art galleries, universities, hospitals and football stadia changing the skyline of Doha may gratify the ruling elite and line the pockets of contractors, some of whom are British, but, until workers' rights become mandatory, they should not gain international acclaim.

In 2010, FIFA, the body responsible for governing world football, faced international opprobrium when it chose Qatar, a country with a tiny population, no history of international football, no domestic football league, no infrastructure and summer temperatures above 40 degrees. The rationale behind the decision has never been explained satisfactorily.

Earlier this year FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter, admitted the decision was a mistake not, note, because workers were dying in their hundreds but because it would be too hot to play. Discussions over whether the tournament should take place in summer or winter are ongoing. Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, believes the timing will change.

Mr Blatter has expressed sympathy and regret for workers' deaths but has absolved FIFA of responsibility. So, there we have it. But need Mr Blatter have the last word? The Football Association and the Scottish Football Association are members of FIFA, and they could exert muscle. If football's governing bodies do not want to take a stand perhaps we could hear from the footballers. Should players look forward to playing for their country, knowing countless lives have been lost for their moments of glory? And it would not be good enough for the FA, SFA or others to deny any responsibility in the manner of Mr Blatter.

In the crowds enjoying Glasgow's Games and among the hundreds of thousands in the UK and millions around the world there will be a sense of anticipation about the prospects for the World Cup. Glasgow's Games have been delivered decently and honourably. Perhaps Qatar could do worse than persuade Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, to help it raise its game.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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