Football means a lot for millions of children around the world. The values and the magic of the game should continue to be enjoyed by children free of harm and abuse. FIFA’s sport-for-development projects, even though well intended, are not substitutes for the human rights of children. The values and magic of the game fade whenever FIFA turns a blind eye to children and families forcibly evicted, to children subjected to street clearance, sexual and other exploitation or when fathers are gone to build World Cup infrastructure. None of this is inevitable.
Ignacio Packer, Secretary General of Terre des Hommes, said:
“Concerning the respect for human rights as well as the fight against corruption, Blatter leaving FIFA should be the starting point for fundamental change. But the problem is not solved by one man stepping down. It is clear that structural reforms are urged at all levels to regain credibility and trust. New leaders must revise bidding procedures for World Cup attributions and make them transparent. Moreover, human rights and especially children’s rights need to be at the heart of all stages of the bidding process, including implementation in ‘the real world’ and evaluation. Terre des Hommes, as leading child rights organization on this issue, will continue pressing for practical steps.”
The new leadership and those supporting a ‘new FIFA’ now have the possibility to align their practice to the values they promote. The risk of hosting the World Cup should be assessed not only in terms of the environment, but also in relation to human rights – in particular children’s rights. FIFA should seek to enforce international guidelines, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and not over-ride local policies protecting children.
In April 2015, the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) asked specific questions to the four official candidates for the FIFA presidency about their plans to tackle human rights and labour rights, as well as sustainability and corruption issues, once in office. All four candidates responded, but only Michael van Praag set out a detailed plan to address such abuses.
“If the new FIFA President fails to implement human rights reforms ahead of the next World Cups, there surely will be further abuses. We all love to watch the World Cup, but sports fans don’t want to sit in a stadium built by exploited, cheated, and abused workers – or worse, a facility that cost lives to construct”, commented Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch.
It will need more than Blatter’s demission to have a ‘new FIFA’. The new leadership is offered the opportunity to transform FIFA into a transparent and human rights conscious organisation. Now, all it takes is courage and the will to step up to the challenge.