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Fifa puts off World Cup timing decision

Workers' plight still ignored as when to hold Qatar Cup delayed

Fifa won't decide when it holds the 2022 World Cup in Qatar until the beginning of next year, the head of the body's timing task force confirmed yesterday.

Fifa executive committee member and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa said he still had to talk to a number of stakeholders over when to hold the blood stained tournament.

"The decision is to look at the possibilities of the timing, as we speak now it is still June/July but the aim of this task force is to look at the other options and the concerns that some will have."

He was visiting London yesterday to sign a co-operation deal with the Premier League, whose chief executive Richard Scudamore said lengthy talks were still needed.

Scudamore showed no signs of reacting to the mounting pressure to use the Cup as a bargaining tool in improving labour standards in host Qatar, where conservative estimates suggest that more than 4,000 workers could die in tournament construction projects.

He said: "Our position is quite clear - Qatar were awarded it, Qatar should hold it.

"It was awarded in full knowledge of the conditions.

"Their entire campaign was about how you would cope with holding it in summer.

"If anything is going to change, all we have ever said is 'this is complicated and complex, all factors need looking at and weighed up, can we calm down and look at it properly?"

Meanwhile Mr Salman of Bahrain, which has its own sordid record on trade union rights and treatment of migrant workers - including a 2010 construction walkout where 10 strike leaders were forced to return to their home countries for fear of reprisals - claimed that the World Cup was already acting as a catalyst to improve rights in Qatar.

"I am sure that the government of Qatar is co-operating positively in that sense. The best thing the World Cup is doing now is trying to improve the working conditions in Qatar. If it wasn't for the World Cup I'm not sure we would have heard of this issue."

The International Trade Union Confederation has accused Qatar's "inadequate" response to labour violations of focusing on public relations.

Fifa is due to discuss migrant workers in Qatar at an executive commitee meeting this week.

Immigrant workers are forced into employment under "kafala" laws, a sytem of virtual enslavement under which their ability to leave the country or change job is entirely at the whim of their employer.

"Qatar must change," said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow.

"Fifa can make a difference by making the abolishment of kafala and the respect of international rights a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022."


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