QATAR: Media Move to Keep the (Soccer) Ball in Qatar’s Court

ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES- World soccer is wrapped up in a whirlwind of scandal.  Not only have American authorities indicted FIFA executives, they are now working with the Swiss to investigate soccer’s governing body for corruption and bribery. Once again under scrutiny are Russia’s (2018) and Qatar’s (2022) upcoming World Cup matches.  Qatar has confronted criticism from nearly everyone, but earlier this month, the tiny gulf state gained crucial media support from its neighbors.

At the 23rd meeting of the The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which consists of most of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf,  information ministers encouraged the regional media to support Qatar’s’ World Cup bid in spite of allegations of bribery.

The GCC nations stressed solidarity with Qatar and added that the foremost duty of regional media was to highlight cultural and economic achievements.  They argued that Qatar’s right to host the 2022 World Cup is an achievement for the entre GCC region. The ministers agreed that Qatar should develop a joint media initiative to stress the region’s right to host the event. The initiative would be followed by the media committees of all the member states and instruct all radio, TV, and print media in the GCC states to fight both the spread of extremism and what they have called “hateful campaigns.”

The media initiative is not unwarranted. Other countries are prepared to take the tournament. UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale stated in the House of Commons that England could step in to host the World Cup if it is found that Qatar had violated the rules of the bidding process. Australia, which had lost early in the bidding process, has also considered bidding again.

However, the chances that either Russia or Qatar would be forced to relinquish the tournament are bleak. FIFA still insists that the tournament locations will not change if no evidence of corruption is found. In the meantime, Qatar will develop a media strategy with the general secretariat of the GCC, and all forms of media in the region will be briefed on the role they can play in media discourse.

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