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Familiar Issues Dominate Soccerex Asian Forum

Fri 16th May 2014 | Football Governance

The Soccerex Asian Forum produced a lot of debate and discussion in the very first edition of the event in Jordan this week.

However the opening day was dominated by unfortunately familiar issues in the world of football.

After a welcome by FIFA Vice-President and Asian Development Foundation president HRH Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, the conference soon ran into a controversial issue this week – that of sexism.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore reportedly used derogatory language towards women in leaked emails obtained by the Sunday Mirror, and FIFA executive committee member (co-opted) Moya Dodd was in no doubt that sexism in football was not to be tolerated.

“The challenge for us in football is to make sure that it is open and inclusive to everyone” she said. “The next time you hear a man insult another man by suggesting he has female characteristics, I think you should challenge him.

“You should challenge him. I find that hurtful, I find that offensive; since when is my gender an insult? I think it’s time we really challenged ourselves and asked ourselves whether we’re really being as open and inclusive as we can be in the world of football.”

Since Dodd’s comments, senior figures in the FA and the government have labelled his comments “totally inappropriate” and his position is sure to be discussed at the league’s audit and remuneration committee meeting on Monday.

Australian Dodd (who is head of a FIFA’s women’s football task force) then addressed the challenge of marketing it to broadcasters and sponsors; suggesting it was time to take a different approach to packaging it.

She said “Women’s football is a fantastic game to watch. We then have to say how do we commercialise that? Who’s trying to do that and who’s doing that wrong. I think that’s the next step in the progression. We have to ask ourselves what are the brand values of women’s football?

“If we look at both the UEFA Champions League finals, the men’s and the women’s, what is different about those two events? What am I buying that I don’t get when I watch men’s football? I can answer that question because I watch women’s football and I think it’s fresh and honest in the way that it is played.”

However, that notion was soon overshadowed by the panel on the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Hassan Al Thawadi, head of the 2022 World Cup's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, was due to speak but pulled out of the event this week due to government business.

Communications & Marketing Executive Director Nasser Al Khater took his place and was quick to dismiss recent reports about the tournament’s preparation.

“There has not been a single death or single injury on World Cup projects,” he said referring to the reported deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the country.” I would like to make sure this matter is put to rest. We have taken the issue of workers welfare very seriously.”

Al Khater then revealed that by the end of this year five stadiums for the tournament would be in different stages of construction, with the Al Wakrah stadium the only one to have begun work as yet.

Also a decision on how many arenas would be needed will be discussed and decided with FIFA next year, he added.

But the workers welfare issue remains the focus of the media’s attention. During the second day of Soccerex, the Qatar government announced that they were recommending changes to the controversial kafala system which ties workers to sponsors.

A statement said that the sponsorship system for foreign workers “will be replaced with a system based on employment contracts.”

It added: “The reforms would replace requirements that foreign workers obtain their employer’s consent with an automated system through the ministry of interior.”

However that announcement was met with widespread confusion and was slammed by International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow who said “kafala lives on”.

A statement from FIFA welcomed the changes but also revealed that president Sepp Blatter and exco member Theo Zwanziger had cancelled their trip to the Gulf state next week.

They will now visit Qatar after the World Cup in Brazil to allow “for time to gain a better understanding of the measures that were presented today.”

Image: FIFA executive committee member (co-opted) Moya Dodd

Posted by: Christian Radnedge

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