POOR old Qatar. This was supposed to be the week where the country’s name would be on the world’s lips, where you would hardly be able to move for the wall-to-wall advertising and hype-building as football’s grandest event comes to town.

We are now only a matter of days away from the world’s biggest sporting spectacle kicking off, yet those with only a passing interest in football could be forgiven for not even realising that the World Cup is taking place.

Part of the reason, surely, is down to the unusual timing of Qatar 2022. The country’s blistering heat meant that staging the tournament over the summer was impossible – just one of the many reasons it is wholly unsuitable to host a World Cup – so this edition represents a break from tradition. Domestic leagues were in action as recently as this weekend and the result is that rather than the weeks-long drum-roll of build-up, it will all be crammed into the next six days.

Perhaps the nation will soon be gripped with World Cup fever but I have my doubts. Scotland’s absence from the showpiece in Qatar certainly fuels the disinterest, to an extent, but we have not qualified for the finals in quite some time; previous tournaments have not suffered from a similar level of apathy from the public.

The reason for much of this, of course, is Qatar’s appalling human rights record. Homophobia and repression are endorsed by its government (this World Cup will be the most heavily surveyed in history), while the plight of the migrant workers used to build the eight shimmering white elephants that serve as host venues, as they are surely destined to become, has been well-documented. An investigation from The Guardian concluded that the death toll runs into the thousands.

Sponsors are the power behind the throne at FIFA and they also happen to be some of the few bodies actually able to sway policy at world football’s governing body, and they are all too aware of the dangers of hitching themselves to Qatar’s wagon, particularly in Europe. Some of the same organisations that were only too happy to hold their nose and pony up for Russia 2018 – four years on from the annexation of Crimea – have come to the conclusion that association with the 2022 World Cup is a bridge too far.

It’s this wariness that has led to a lower-than-usual level of interest in the tournament, in my view. Those who don’t care for football will likely feel they can’t escape it over the next month and while it will undoubtedly receive vast coverage, I expect it to be relatively low compared to previous World Cups. There will be the usual extensive reports of matches and highlights, of hour-long build-ups on television and pre- and post-match interviews, but advertisers are not as keen as they once were.

World Cup-themed adverts are starting to populate our screens but it is notable that many are reluctant to mention the Q word. Paddy Power, the bookmaker, released a 73-second-long video as a tie-in to football’s greatest tournament, yet not once did it happen to mention where it is taking place. Or take Pepsi’s 155-second-long commercial, based in an unnamed, vaguely Middle Eastern-looking country, where a team of superstars take part in a nutmeg competition with “the local team”, according to the commentator.

These sponsors seem to think that Qatar shares the same functionality as Beetlejuice; that it can only be spoken into existence. The truth is that they are jumping on the World Cup bandwagon for the obvious commercial benefits of the association, all the while hoping their brand will not be tainted by it if they simply refuse to acknowledge it and hope no one else cottons on.

It is a display of unabashed cynicism, perhaps best characterised by BrewDog’s latest self-inflicted PR s***-show. The Scottish brewing company has had its fair share of flak to deal with over the last year or so due to accusations of fostering a toxic work environment and mistreating its employees, so perhaps it should have come as no surprise when they managed to stick their foot in it once again.

BrewDog prides itself on being attached to the punk movement and likes to think of itself as a company that’s unafraid to stick two fingers up to the establishment. We can only assume that some bored executive somewhere noticed the opposition to the Qatar World Cup and decided to get in on the action. An advertising campaign was launched where BrewDog boasted of being the ‘anti-sponsors’ of the tournament.

“This isn't a World Cup,” BrewDog explained. “It's a World F*Cup. Football's been dragged through the mud, before a single ball's been kicked. Let's be honest: Qatar won it through bribery. On an industrial scale.

“We're proud to be launching BrewDog as an anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup. To be clear we love football, we just don't love corruption, abuse and death. So join us.”

There was just one slight hitch with the scheme: within days of the campaign’s launch, it came to light that BrewDog already sells beer in Qatar via a third party. Oh, and it also plans on showing World Cup matches in its bars for the duration of the tournament.

Qatar should have never been awarded the World Cup, as Netflix’s recent documentary on the subject makes abundantly clear. Corruption wasn’t just a feature of the old FIFA ExCo committee (the executives who awarded tournaments to countries); this was government by corruption.

For all the money stuffed into brown envelopes and (allegedly) distributed by the Qataris in their latest sportswashing venture, it appears as though they cannot buy what they crave most of all: legitimacy in the court of public opinion. Sponsors’ opposition to the World Cup will have a more telling effect than any protest, but there are still some who have been tempted into tacit support of an authoritarian regime. Qatar is hosting the World Cup so that it can clean up its image; companies that lend their financial support to it only succeed in enabling them to do so.