Well, it’s over.

This year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar was probably the most controversial in the tournament’s history. The 1978 edition – hosted by Argentina after General Videla overthrew Isabel Peron in a military coup – and 1934’s tournament, hosted by Mussolini’s Italy, could probably run it close, but the combination of gay rights, workers’ rights and the shifting of the event to the northern hemisphere’s winter mark this latest World Cup out from all the others.

However, when we have all calmed a little, what will we think? Where will we go from here when it comes to holding globally significant events, particularly in the sporting world? We have toyed with the dilemma for many, many years now. When global events are hosted by questionable countries, does this shine a light on that country’s deficiencies and force change, or does it send the message that intolerance is tolerated?

Before we look forward, it is important that we look back. So-called sportswashing is not new. There are, as we might expect, plenty of examples which pre-date a time when we might consider ourselves to be more discerning and self-aware than we are now.

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Argentina was also hosting Grands Prix throughout this time, as was Spain during the Franco years. The two fights which remain the most famous in boxing’s history were hosted by dictatorships with widespread and vile human rights violations. 1975’s Thrilla in Manilla, and the previous year’s Rumble in the Jungle, are the two most iconic fights of one of sport’s most iconic figures, Muhammad Ali.

That they were secured under the rule of Marshall Mobutu in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Philippines' President Marcos has become something of a footnote.

The Olympic Games, the men’s football World Cup’s only rival for global supporting supremacy, has an equally chequered past. Its awarding of hosting rights to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in 1934 will never be forgotten. 1980’s games took place in the Soviet Union.

But this approach has continued right through to the present day, during a time when the decision makers are more informed, more transparent, more powerful than they ever have been.

Football’s Copa America was held in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela in 2007. Astonishingly, with hindsight, the last World Cup took place in Russia, long after President Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

Formula 1’s global expansion continues to take it to four locations in the Middle East, including Qatar, as well as China and, until recently, Russia. Boxing’s authorities, for a long while, centred their universe in Las Vegas, but the lure of Saudi Arabia is becoming difficult to resist. Boxing follows money, and the money is in Jeddah.

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China has had a winter and summer Olympics during the last 15 years. Qatar and Saudi Arabia both have their eyes on the 2036 Olympiad.

None of this is a justification for the global government bodies of sport – often themselves bedevilled by allegations of corruption and anti-democracy – choosing to take their events to countries with poor records on democracy, human rights and so on. It is, rather, an appeal for perspective.

Perspective, in fact, will probably lead to a conclusion that Qatar is the least worst of a bad bunch when compared with other recent hosts of the biggest events we enjoy. If I were a Qatari national or resident, I’d feel far more comfortable speaking out against Sheikh Tamim than I would be speaking out against President Putin in Russia (World Cup, 2018), or against President Xi in China (Winter Olympics, 2022).

Its protection of workers is, self-evidently, nowhere near the level here in the UK (despite the nonsensical musings of Gary Neville), but much like its Emirati neighbours it attracts vast numbers of willing migrants who know a better life is available.

And while Qatar’s rules on gay rights are dismal compared to what we take for granted in the West, their approach on heterosexuality is scarcely more enlightened. Sex outside marriage, irrespective of with whom, is illegal, although in practice rarely punished.

It is fair to say that I have changed my mind on this matter over recent months and years. I would, hitherto, have classed myself as something of a fundamentalist. In truth, I would have wished for major global sporting events to go only to countries which could be fairly considered ‘free’.

However, other than making ourselves feel more virtuous, what would that actually achieve? Would it be enough to persuade democracy’s non-believers to about-turn? Not likely. Would blackballing help any of the people in those countries? Not obviously. Would it help to raise awareness of, and participation in, sport as a global social good? Clearly not.

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So I have rather changed my mind. I am of the view that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We all know a lot more about Qatar now than we did a month ago. Qatar knows that we know a lot more about Qatar than we did a month ago. It is, of course, fanciful to suggest that a switch will be flicked in Doha, but it is not fanciful to suggest that this global attention might set this tiny state on a journey to a better future.

There needs to be a line, but in drawing it we should be governed by sense and with precedent in mind. The next football World Cup is heading to North America, shared between Canada, the USA and Mexico. Canada is one of the world’s best countries. But the USA is currently questioning a woman’s right to choose, and criminal charges for insurrection are being sought against the previous President. And in Mexico, a country rated only "partly free" by Freedom House, journalists and politicians are at constant risk from drug gangs and organised crime.

Does anyone think Mexico and the US should be relieved of hosting duties?

The truth is that all of the world’s 200 or so countries sit on a spectrum. They are all flawed; some more than others, clearly. But being flawed, and being a candidate for cancellation are, rightly, different.

Some countries belong on the black list. Russia is perhaps today’s most obvious example. But let us distinguish between the flawed and the sadistic.

Qatar is flawed. But there’s worse out there.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters