Two long-time FIFA sponsors, Visa and Coca-Cola, spoke out against Qatar's human rights issues and their hosting the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday. The two pay FIFA an estimated $30 million per year to be part of a handful of primary sponsors for the organization and every event they put on, but with reports of migrant worker deaths and inhumane working conditions in Qatar, especially with regards to building venues for the 2022 World Cup, they chose to speak out.
"We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions," Visa said in a statement. "We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved."
Coca-Cola echoed Visa's comments.
"The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world," a spokesperson told Sports Business Daily. "We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress."
This sounds like it may be a step in the right direction. After all, while people can bemoan the working conditions in Qatar and wonder how FIFA could stomach the issues, most people don't have much power. The people who pay FIFA huge money do have power, though.
Unfortunately, it's likely that Visa and Coca-Cola won't go much further than these statements and won't effect much change. This isn't the first time FIFA partners have commented on issues and expressed concern, but they don't do anything more. Several partners released statements asking for change in FIFA after long-standing corruption problems came to light, but didn't push any harder or demand any changes.
You'll notice that in neither Visa nor Coca-Cola's statements demand change or threaten any action in the event of insufficient change. They simply say that they are aware of the issues and expect there to be action, which there undoubtedly will be. In fact, there has already been action. It's just been small and virtually insignificant. But Visa and Coca-Cola aren't demanding significant action and certainly aren't setting benchmarks for what's acceptable.
Visa and Coca-Cola have business interests to protect. FIFA and their partnership with the organization are substantial business interests. So they've come out and made a statement, which is more than fellow primary sponsors McDonald's, adidas, Kia, Hyundai, Gazprom and Budweiser can say, but in the end, it's unlikely to mean much.