E60 Qatar's World Cup (2:16)

E60 went to investigate the plight of migrant workers. They went back to see how things have changed over the last eight years. 2 minutes later.

10:17 AM ET

It is a moment that defies logic.

The second World Cup host announcement of the night was prepared by the former president of football's governing body. Russia won the right to host the World Cup, with Blatter saying it would do a lot of good for that part of the world. He focused on the year 2022. Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States of America were listed by Blatter before he said that the winner of the World Cup would be in the Middle East.

The United States Department of Justice said that FIFA officials took bribes in order to get hosting rights in Russia andQatar. It was amazing at the time. The most popular sporting event on the planet was headed to a tiny Persian Gulf state lacking a soccer culture and with a track record of human rights violations that should have disqualified it.

The peninsula that juts out from the northwest coast of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf is the same size as Connecticut. It has a population of 2.5 million and is smaller than all but two states. The Arabic world was waiting for the World Cup to start. Now you have it, right?

The documentary "Qatar's World Cup" is on E+.

Even with the World Cup starting in November, there is a compelling case that there is no cultural relevance to the country outside of its area. The next month is going to be about changing something. The most significant opportunity is part of a decades-long strategy for the oil-rich nation to establish itself on the world stage, acquire soft power and jump-start the process ofdiversifying its economy.

What is the purpose of this? The World Cup is being hosted by a country with questionable human rights records or an autocratic ruler who wields their financial power to acquire prestigious roles and stakes within the sporting world.

The World Cup kicks off in Doha this Sunday, but it's been a long and difficult road to get here. Nikku/Xinhua via Getty Images

Qatar's myriad sporting investments

Europe is home to the world's most prestigious clubs and most prestigious tournaments. All of the 20 clubs that make the most money in the game are from Europe. Manchester United is the only club in the top six that hasn't received financial support from the Arabian Peninsula.

The biggest club in France, Paris Saint-Germain, is owned by a closed shareholding organization based in Doha that invests into the sports and entertainment industries of the country. In soccer and other sports, there are sponsorship agreements from the state of Qatar.

All 32 teams have full squad lists.

Their Gulf neighbors in Abu Dhabi took control of Manchester City in 2008 and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is the majority owner of a football team. The LIV Golf tour has brought huge controversy to the sport by persuading many of the world's leading golfers to turn their backs on the PGA Tour and earn a fortune playing in the new competition.

Whether or not you consider these examples an attempt to distract attention from human rights abuses and a lack of freedom, the reality is that their links with sport have had the opposite effect, intensifying the spotlight on those issues.


Group A at the World Cup is made up of hosts Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan, and the United States.

It has had the most difficult ride. Unlike Saudi Arabia, whose human rights issues have been established, and other well-known countries like Russia and China that have hosted the Olympic Games, there was no global image to hide. The nation's international introduction was made possible by the awarding of the World Cup.

Men can be sentenced to seven years in prison for having same-sex relations if they are convicted of other crimes. Unwed women risk prosecution if they report pregnancies and there were cases of hospitals reporting unwed mothers to authorities.

Sports figures and fans talk about the World Cup.

Securing the right to host the World Cup was not about putting a veil over those parts of the society. It was a calculated decision to expose itself to the scrutiny of the western world. The Council for Arab-British Understanding, a nonprofit organization that promotes human rights, conflict resolution and civil society in the Arab world, has been working on a course toward where it is now for over 30 years.

When the previous emir came to power in 1995, he didn't exploit the gas field that was sitting on it. The explosion of construction that we've seen now was not seen in it's previous state.

One of the more conservative states in the Arabian Peninsula was closed to the outside world and he tried to change that. The opening up of the media space, as well as having the American military base at Al Udeid, was a part of that, as was the huge changes in education in the country.

Beer sales are moved at venues.

A major part of Al Thani's plan was to host sporting events in order to open the country to the rest of the world. To help diversify the economy with expanded tourism was one of the main purposes.

The emir wanted to bring in trade. A part of this drive was the creation of the global hub at the airport. He wanted to have people come to the country to compete with the others.

The ability to sell alcohol in hotels was important in this regard. Sometimes a plan was implemented with two steps forward and one step back.

Then FIFA president Sepp Blatter, right, hands the World Cup trophy to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, left, after Qatar's successful bid in December, 2010. The winning bid was the culmination of a project that was decades in the making. PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images

The Qatar Tennis Open is one of the most high-profile events in the world and the country has a plan to stage many other sports. The Asian Handball Championships, the Asian Basketball Championships, and the UCI World Cycling Championships all took place in the country.

The World Cup could be seen as apogee of his ambition because he wanted to open up. It wasn't without internal critics, whether spending this huge amount of money on the World Cup was worth it or not, but it did fit into this pattern.

The World Cup anger can be channeled into change.

The desire to open links to the West is a result of the geographical location of the country. There is a gas field with Iran and a land border with Saudi Arabia. There is a long history of rivalry and suspicion between the United Arab Emirates and the other nation to the south, which is well-known as a tourism destination. The tiny state of Kuwait is rich in resources and invaded by Iraq in 1990.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a lesson in how dangerous small states can be in the region, according to a Georgetown University-Qatar professor who co-authored a book on the topic. Soft power is an approach to foreign policy that uses culture, economics and diplomacy.

Security, along with sportswashing, is the driving force for wanting to host the World Cup, which is why all of the above matters toQatar.

The protection of the country is served by football and sport. Visibility, influence and international affairs, national security and a form of branding to be interesting for tourists and investors. I believe those are the reasons.

Establishing Qatar on the world stage

Around the same time it won the World Cup, it began to invest in overseas soccer teams. It was used to establish the country as a travel destination.

The FC Barcelona shirts were adorned with the logo of the Qatar Foundation from 2010 to 2013. Lionel Messi, arguably the world's most visible athlete during that period of time, shared a close association withQatar. The partnership with the airline earned the club an estimated $150 million over the course of the next two years.

You can watch "Qatar's World Cup" on the internet.

A five-year shirt sleeve sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways is said to be worth 20 million dollars annually. The club was paid $10 million a year to sponsor the airport in the Gulf state.

The club's supporters and members have called on the club to not renew the deal when it expires in 2023, but chief executive Oliver Kahn was noncommit to that request when speaking at the club's annual general meeting. There has been progress on labor rights in the country. There was no suggestion that the country ofQatar is a country that complies with European standards. You have to meet people, talk to them and exchange ideas if you want to change.

Manchester City are owned and bankrolled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, and their shirts and stadium have the name of Etihad Airways on them for an undisclosed amount of money. Real Madrid pays $70 million a year to have its name on the shirts of the club's main sponsor.

QSI owns and controls Paris Saint-Germain. The club has made $10 million a year from a sponsorship deal with Saudi Telecom, even though they have not negotiated huge commercial deals.


Berhalter says he and his team will keep pushing the "Be the Change" message.

The major confederations rely a lot on money from the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar Airways is listed as a partner sponsor of the world cup. The confederation of North and Central America will have a partnership with the airline in 2020. Wherever a big football game is being played, there is a good chance that it will go ahead with the help of a financial partnership.

Chris Brady, professor of management studies and director of the Centre for Sports Business at Salford University in England, said that football is dependent on money from the Middle East. Football, a huge, global sport, would replace the revenue stream if it were taken away. Football may go down a more ethical path.

There's a beautiful game here. You can watch tournaments and teams.

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There is a Tuesday in November. It was 15.

• Australia vs. Thailand (3:25 a.m. ET)

• Hamburg vs. Orange County (10 p.m. ET)

Until tobacco sponsorship was banned in many parts of the world, many sports had a similar reliance on tobacco sponsorship. Football did not survive, but they did.

I spoke to one of the American owners when they first bought into the league and he said that no other business gets a billion viewers a week. They were stupid for taking so long to realize the power of football. The game is dependent on Middle East money, but it doesn't always have to be that way.

It might not have the same soccer culture as Europe and South America, but soccer is important in the Middle East. The region has become football's puppet master by learning how and when to pull the strings.

Defense, energy and education

The United States was one of the main competitors to win the World Cup. Both of them made it to the final round of voting in 2010, but only 14 of the 22 members of the executive committee voted for the winner. It's a process that contributed to the downfall of Blatter's reign as FIFA president, which lasted nearly two decades.

It's possible that the events depict an unfriendly relationship between the countries, but that's not the case. After receiving its independence from the United Kingdom in 1972, the United States established diplomatic relations with the Persian Gulf state.

There are three major components to the U.S.-Qatar relationship: defense, energy and education.

The relationship has been built up over the last 50 years according to Davis. While this relationship is useful to us in the United States, we are thinking about what's next and how to expand the relationship.

Key to Qatar's project was Al Udeid Air Base, which was built with the American military in mind. The base hosts thousands of U.S. personnel at any time. Here, Minister of State for Defense of Qatar Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, left, meets with CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel, right, during a 2018 handover ceremony. DEFENCE MINISTRY OF QATAR / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The rapid transformation from an economic lightweight to one of the world's richest countries can be traced back to American influence. Mobil's involvement in the domestic oil and gas industry began in the early 1990's. Mobil's expertise in liquid natural gas led to the creation of the largest liquified natural gas (Liquefied Natural Gas) exporter in the world.

The Al Udeid Air Base was built in 1996 despite not having an air force. The American military was thought to be the reason for the project being started. The U.S Air Force used Al Udeid as a staging location after the 9/11 terrorist attack. At any given time, there are thousands of U.S. personnel at Al Udeid.

The control of the region was important. "It's the nerve center for our military, it's the operational nerve center for our military, it's the center of operations for our military, it's the center of operations for our military, it's the center of operations for our military, it's "After they hosted the Air Force, they became indispensable to us and to our allies in the region, or in Western Europe, Asia, etc."

The U.S. Department of State says that the designation of Qatar as a major non-NATO ally is a powerful symbol of the close relationship.


Group C at the World Cup is expected to be Argentina's weakness.

Foreign universities have been recruited to establish branches in the Education City district. There are eight foreign universities in the development and six from the US. There are U.S. universities that educate the next generation of Qataris.

The U.S. government has been involved in the lead-up to the World Cup. After the World Cup bid was granted, she took her post in the capital city. She wanted the World Cup to rely on U.S. goods and services. She didn't know much about soccer but she and a colleague came up with a plan to expose members of the World Cup organizing committee to American sporting infrastructure and facilitate contacts within the business community.

I can't speak to other countries, but I think we're brilliant at combining sports, media and entertainment. We bring all of those elements together in a way that makes for a really big event.

Qatar is still facing tough questions about its reliance on, and poor treatment of, migrant workers who are responsible for the infrastructure that will host the World Cup. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

She led a group of about a dozen Qataris on a road show of Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and Seattle. They took a tour of the Rose Bowl in L.A. They visited Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers and Thorns, as well as the training facility for the Seattle Sounders, in the Pacific Northwest.

They spent time in Miami and Atlanta. Atlanta's hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics was part of the plan for the Qataris. The trips were designed with a focus on the future in mind. The country knows that it can't remain as reliant on its energy exports as it is. Expansion of the tourism sector was a priority long before the World Cup became a realistic possibility.

The United States' close diplomatic relationship with Qatar and its official support of the World Cup preparation can point to an uncomfortable dynamic relating to human rights.

Several credible reports of significant human rights issues were identified in the report. There are restrictions on free expression, interference with peaceful protests, lack of investigations into gender-based violence, and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, among other things.

There was a report from the State Department on human traffickers in the country. Although it acknowledged an increased effort by the Qatari government, it determined that they don't meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. There are examples of authorities arresting, detaining and deporting people for immigration violations, prostitution, or fleeing from their employers or sponsors, and it called for the prioritization of reforms that would take the country closer to what the U.S. government deems an acceptable standard.

Questions about what role the United States played in influencing change in these areas in the lead-up to the World Cup are raised.

Davis said that they had been talking to the Qataris for a while. There was some motivation for change because of the World Cup, but they believe they have a responsibility to ensure human dignity no matter what.

Fans around the world have been actively protesting the Qatar World Cup, given the human rights issues. FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images

Meaningful change is taking time

At the time of winning the World Cup bid, there wasn't a single venue that was suitable for the tournament, so the construction of seven new stadiums and the major renovation of another was shocking. It was possible that the infrastructure needed to host more than a million visitors for the event was even more extensive.

"We'll build everything, we're rich" was the extent of the plan to fix that situation. If there was any concern about the working conditions and standards for the foreign workers who would be required to build the venues, it didn't show up.

The worker who died was suffering to survive.

Reiche said that the rapid development could not have happened without blue- and white- collar workers from abroad. It's too small of a population. It's the most dependent on foreign workers in the world. Out of 10 people in the country, only one is a citizen.

The kafala sponsorship system is a longstanding practice in the Arab world that provides cheap labor. The travel and housing costs for individuals with the promise of earning more money than they would be able to make in their home countries are usually paid for by a sponsor. Many are from Nepal, Bangladesh and India.

Foreign workers hold a lot of the jobs in the service industry and are needed for the country to function.

The situation for the migrant worker population was a pretty desperate one when they were awarded the tournament, according to a human rights advocate. They were kept in virtual bondage.

Many of the workers were living in squalor when "E:60" was there. They were forced to work in unbearable heat without recourse to change jobs or return home after their passports were taken. At times there was no payment at all. More reports from Western media and NGOs added to the scrutiny of the two organizations.

It was always going to happen. The members of the World Cup Supreme Committee and others in the government were aware that there would be a lot of attention on the country. They were very clear in their understanding of this. They knew that they would be judged on a lot of issues. Labor was going to be one of the things that would be looked into. They began to work within the government and other private sectors to figure out how to create a system that works better for them and works better for labor.

It's true that different groups from the outside push them to do something. The fact that there was a genuine understanding early on and genuine steps that were being taken to address many of these issues does not detract from the fact that outside influences helped. That is important to understand.

It took time for change to come. The minimum monthly wage for new contracts was mandated in August 2020 but it took until March 2021 to apply it to existing contracts. The minimum wage is oppressively low by Western standards, even though it is $275 for basic wages, $82 for food and $137 for those who are not provided housing. More than 400,000 workers received an increase in their wages as a result of the change.

Reiche said that it was the first minimum wage in the region. It changed the lives of many people from one day to the next. You can leave the country without approval from your employers, you can switch jobs, and they can extend hours where outside work is not allowed.

During the first decade of World Cup preparation, laborers were not allowed to work outside from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The time period was extended to 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The workers' rights issue probably surprised the organizers. When they got the World Cup, the issue was still there, but it has been solved. It doesn't mean it is where I want it to be, but it is definitely different. It's much more than lip service.

The staff of "E60: Qatar's World Cup" found significant changes from their previous visit to the country and spoke with leaders from the ILO and the International Trade Union Confederation. The ITUC general secretary recognized efforts by the government to change after he called the country a slave state in the 21st century.

The kafala system is no longer alive. "You can see a very different Qatar," he told "E: 60." The laws of exploitative modern slavery are no longer valid because of the challenge of implementation.

Human Rights Watch is a New York based organization that investigates and reports on abuse around the world. Significant labor reforms have been acknowledged but have been found to be woefully inadequate in protecting workers' rights.

'We will bridge the gap between East and West'

In a way, no nation of its size has ever had this amount of attention. Infantino said in May that the tournament would be watched by five billion people.

Despite knowing the short-term economic impact from the tournament wouldn't make a difference, it was worth investing an estimated $220 billion to make it possible. The World Cup was never viewed as an end game by the country. It could lead to something after the trophy is lifted.

Changing the perception of the Middle East outside the region was supposed to be part of the plan. Reiche and his co-author, Paul Michael Brannagan, documented an appearance from Al- Thawadi at a sports diplomacy conference at Oxford University.

The majority of fans from all over the world will visit the country for the first time. People will see our country and region in a positive light, thanks to football. Thanks to football, we will bridge the gap between the east and west.

It's not yet possible to forecast how the actual tournament will affect the outcome. It is possible that protests and criticism will ramp up at the beginning.

There are ways in which the last 10 years for the Qataris have been rapid. Our job is to make sure that these things keep growing. In a region that has sometimes been slow to progress on these issues, the way they got here in the last ten years is an example of the kind of progress that can be made.

The dilemma is how to reconcile the progress of human rights with the issues that remain.