Qatar to stage manage World Cup fan groups through PR program
LONDON: Qatar will offer pay and expenses to groups of 40 football fans representing more than 30 countries in exchange for positive messages.
According to The Times, fan groups from England and Wales have signed up for the Fan Leader Program. This program provides them with free accommodation, fights, and tickets.
Some supporter groups, including those from France and the USA, however, describe the program as “sinister and distasteful.”
Program members will need to promote the tournament by performing chants in front TV cameras as well as maintaining a pro-Qatar presence via social media.
The program will include four members of the official England band football team, including John Hemmingham, who has agreed to participate.
The Times obtained a document that outlined Qatar’s expectations for fan group behavior. It stated: “In celebrations of the fans all over the world, the following five-minutes will see fan chants from every nation played. You will be asked to stand up and sing the song/chant, waving your flags, and represent your country.
Hemmingham stated that Qatar is very safe and there are many rules. There was no crime during an earlier promotion of the World Cup.
England’s Football Association stated in a statement that it was told that this was an opportunity for fans to interact with each other in order to ensure that their voices were heard during the World Cup planning process. They also indicated that they were in discussions with many international associations.
Ronan Evain is the executive director of Football Supporters Europe. He stated that they are at best program members and volunteers for the World Cup, but they can also be a mouthpiece to the Qatar Supreme Committee.
Additional media reports suggest that there are fears the program might silence any negative opinions or dissent from spectators.
Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that a Netherlands football fan had agreed to watch the activities of his compatriots during this tournament.
Joseph Delage, a France fan, told Le Parisien he turned down the offer to participate in the program. He said that despite the appealing side of the dish, he preferred to remain true to his values.