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International sports associations caught between dollar signs and human rights ideals

By James M. Dorsey A just published study highlights how commerce and glitz are reinforcing support for autocracy by international sports associations, and undermining the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) newly found resolve to hold potential host cities to human rights standards to which world football body FIFA pays. The study by Andrew Zimbalist, Circus Maximus: The Economic …

Daily News Egypt

​Notes from America: How American football…explains America

By Ahmed Tharwat Last Sunday, more than 140 million Americans congregated in living rooms, bars, restaurants to eat, drink and watch the Super Bowl XLIX  (49). This is the biggest sporting event of the year, with highest TV rating (39.1 points); the game day ticket price averaging $10,466, it brought more than $500M economic value (debatable) to …

Daily News Egypt

Qatar asks for time to implement labour reforms

By James M. Dorsey Qatari sports executives, in a bid to refute calls for depriving Qatar of its 2022 World Cup hosting rights, have asked their human rights and trade union critics as well as world football body FIFA to give them more time to address criticism of the Gulf state’s kafala or sponsorship system …

Daily News Egypt

Egypt appoints controversial UAE hired gun as elections monitor

By James M. Dorsey Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s efforts to lend legitimacy to parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring have gotten off to a murky start with the appointment of a controversial, reportedly United Arab Emirates-backed, human rights NGO as one of five foreign election monitors. The appointment of Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) alongside four …

Daily News Egypt

AFC official ‘happy’ to bar women spectators from stadia

By James M. Dorsey The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has dropped any pretention of standing up for universal standards for equality in sports by endorsing bans on women attending football matches in stadia. In doing so, the AFC has confirmed policies adopted by the Asian group, as well as world football body FIFA, that effectively …

Daily News Egypt

GCC abandonment of unified labour contract puts onus on Qatar

By James M. Dorsey A decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to abandon plans to adopt a unified contract for domestic workers increases pressure on Qatar to significantly revamp its controversial labour regime in a bid to fend off efforts to deprive it of its right to host the 2022 World Cup. It also …

Daily News Egypt

A vote for Prince Ali is a likely vote for change – and for challenge

By James M. Dorsey FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein’s announcement that he will challenge the world football body’s four-time president Sepp Blatter in elections later this year has definitively turned the poll into a battle for the group’s future. A vote for the prince is at least a vote against the FIFA president …

Daily News Egypt

Setting benchmark in battle for statehood: Palestine in Asian Cup

By James M. Dorsey Palestine has set a new benchmark for nations like the Kurds and the Kosovars, who see football as a key part of their toolbox to achieve statehood, with its qualification for this month’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup even if the Palestinian road to statehood is increasingly pockmarked by seemingly …

Daily News Egypt

Qatar gambles that labour reforms will satisfy critics

By James M. Dorsey 2022 World Cup host Qatar has announced a series of reforms to improve working and living conditions of its majority migrant labour population that address material concerns, but fall short of recommendations made in a government-sponsored study and demands of trade union and human rights activists. The litmus test for Qatar’s …

Daily News Egypt

Gulf-Iranian proxy war spills onto football pitch

By James M. Dorsey A Saudi-led proxy war against Iran playing out in Syria and Iraq has expanded onto the football pitch with a last minute decision by the Palestinian national team to cancel a friendly against Iran. The cancellation, officially on technical grounds, came barely two weeks before Iran meets two of its Gulf nemeses, the …

Daily News Egypt

Angry Saudi football clubs pinpoint Gulf labour market contradictions

By James M. Dorsey Mounting anger among Saudi football clubs at their subjugation to quotas designed to encourage employment of Saudi nationals and reduce dependence on foreign labour illustrates problems encountered by wealthy Gulf countries in balancing the contradictory demands of labour markets, often lopsided demographics, social contracts involving a cradle-to-grave welfare state that creates …

Daily News Egypt

Sponsorship of FIFA: a new front in Gulf political rivalry

By James M. Dorsey Lurking in the background of world football body FIFA’s talks with Qatar Airways to replace its Dubai rival Emirates as a sponsor is the escalating hostility between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as a result of their divergent attitudes towards political Islam. Officially, Emirates’ decision to end its $200m relationship …

Daily News Egypt

AFC power struggle reflects sorry state of football governance

By James M. Dorsey   FIFA Vice President and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, in an uncommon display of elegance and magnanimity in the rarefied world of world soccer as well as of Middle Eastern and North African leaders, has conceded defeat in a battle that is symptomatic of …

Daily News Egypt

Will Brazil win the World Cup?

By Dr César Chelala When Diego Maradona was asked in 1998 who would win that year’s football World Cup being played in France, he said: “Countries organise the World Cup to win it,” thus suggesting that France would be the winner. And it was. The same thing could be said for this year’s World Cup in Brazil. For most people, Brazil is …

Daily News Egypt

Protest and human rights shape debate on awarding of mega events

By James M. Dorsey Mass protests against Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup, Turkey’s loss of opportunities to host sports events and controversy over 2022 World Cup host Qatar’s labour system are impacting the global sports world’s thinking about the requirements future hosts will have to meet. The impact is likely to go far beyond …

Daily News Egypt

Lax FIFA policing of political interference in football focuses on Egypt

By James M. Dorsey World football body FIFA has dispatched investigators to Egypt to probe allegations of government interference as the country prepares for potentially risky bids to host two international tournaments, the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup and the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup. The FIFA investigation and the bids come against the …

Daily News Egypt

Trade union call for a freeze on kafala puts Qatar to the test

By James M. Dorsey Qatar’s response to a call by international trade unions to freeze its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers injured in a gas leak and separate gas explosion is likely to indicate the Gulf state’s willingness to reform or abolish a scheme that critics denounce as a form of modern slavery and …

Daily News Egypt

Egyptian autocrats struggle with football’s political pros and cons

By James M. Dorsey An Egyptian government initiative to build more than a thousand new football pitches to “keep youth off the streets” against the backdrop of a rising number of clashes between fans and security forces and a likely extension and expansion of the ban on spectators attending matches highlights the opportunities and threats …

Daily News Egypt

Harsh Qatari labour conditions move centre stage as FIFA debates World Cup

By James M. Dorsey Controversy over conditions for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in Qatar involved in the construction of World Cup-related infrastructure as well as for flight attendants of Qatar Airways, the 2022 tournament’s likely official carrier, has moved centre stage as world soccer body FIFA prepares to debate next week the Gulf state’s hosting …

Daily News Egypt