UNI World Athletes, the world players’ association across professional sport, welcomed the historic report and recommendations on FIFA and human rights by Professor John G Ruggie of Harvard University.
The report, “For the Game. For the World.” FIFA and Human Rights follows widely publicised concerns over the abuse of migrant workers involved in preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and a range of significant violations of the human rights of players.
Brendan Schwab, the Head of UNI World Athletes, said that, “Professor Ruggie’s report sets a standard not just for FIFA, but for the world of sport. The power and reach of international sporting federations like FIFA can be a force for good by advancing human rights across the world. Everyone involved in football from migrant workers in Qatar to the players should have the rights of freedom of assembly and of movement, rights to education and work and the right to collectively bargain.”
The report makes 25 detailed recommendations to embed respect for human rights across FIFA’s global operations. The recommendations are based on the authoritative standard for doing so, the
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which Professor Ruggie authored.
Professor Ruggie found that:
- the scale of FIFA’s global operations may result in an adverse range of adverse human rights risks. These include the operations of FIFA confederations and member associations as well as the awarding and hosting of major tournaments, such as the FIFA World Cup
- gender discrimination in the world of football remains an endemic human rights challenge for FIFA
- at this time, FIFA does not have adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice
- whilst FIFA is not responsible for all human rights abuses by organisations it works with, or any country in which events are staged, it is responsible for its own involvement with such risks
- FIFA acts vigorously to develop and enforce regulations related to its institutional and commercial interests, but when it comes to many other matters, including human rights, FIFA’s capacity to ensure compliance is lacking.
Professor Ruggie’s report specifically addresses the position of the players, acknowledging the work of FIFPro, the world footballers’ association and a member of UNI World Athletes, in documenting allegations by players of serious harm to their human rights. These include trafficking (including minors), non-payment, delay, harassment and threats of suspension, threats compounded by players being denied access to an effective remedy.
“Current sports’ regulations have the practical effect of denying players access to courts of justice in favour of an arbitration system that lacks expertise in human rights,” Schwab said. “We are pleased that Professor Ruggie has recommended that this be reviewed with the involvement of player representatives to ensure that the procedural and substantive protections of a player’s fundamental rights are in place."
“UNI World Athletes and FIFPro look forward to working with FIFA to make football’s human rights record a source of pride for the world game,” Schwab added.
“We hope that this report will be a catalyst for change,” FIFPro General Secretary Theo van Seggelen said. “By focusing on human rights we see a greater possibility that all football players will be treated with dignity.”
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “Professor Ruggie’s FIFA report has a relevance beyond football. The message on human rights and sport resonates with all professional players across all sports. The report has the potential to be a global turning point in sport governance everywhere.”
UNI World Athletes, a sector of the UNI Global Union, is a collective of 85,000 athletes through major player associations including FIFPro, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, the International Rugby Players’ Association, EU Athletes, the US National Basketball Players
Association, the US National Football League Players Association, the National Hockey League Players Association (United States and Canada), the Japanese Baseball Players Association and the Australian Athletes’ Alliance.