Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to arrive in Qatar for the World Cup next year. But the host country has come under a great deal of scrutiny since it was revealed that it had hired thousands of fans to help promote the tournament.
Fans were headhunted from across the globe and were offered flights, accommodation, and daily allowances. They were also expected to post positive social media content about the tournament and report any posts that were critical of Qatar. But this isn’t the first time that fans have been paid to attend sporting events. The country has been accused of enlisting migrant workers to fill stadiums at World Cup matches and IAAF World Athletics Championships. The migrant workers were bussed to stadiums and filled the seats. They were also filmed and uploaded to social media.
Many fans complained about the program, claiming that the country had paid people to pretend to be fans. But FIFA president Gianni Infantino labelled the accusations as pure racism. He said that the fan group scheme was a way to recognise the efforts fans had put in to help Qatar prepare for the tournament. It also said that fans would be given tickets to the opening match. The program also involved the recruitment of thirty to fifty fans from each team to participate in a fan-themed section of the opening ceremony.
The Fan Leader Network scheme was launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the agency that is in charge of the World Cup in Qatar. The program instructed fans to post positive social media content, post favourable comments about the tournament, and report any social media posts that were critical of Qatar. It also instructed them to sing chants or songs that were specific to their country.
Fans will also receive free flights, accommodation, and match tickets. They are expected to stay in Qatar for at least two weeks. Fans who stay longer will also receive complimentary tickets to matches, free meals, and a free Visa card that allows them to spend PS60 a day at restaurants and bars. The Fan Leader Network programme will also pay fans to chant at matches.
The offer to fans was made after the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy’s fan engagement program began in 2020. The committee asked for contact with leading fan groups to better understand their needs. Several fan groups were approached, including the American Outlaws, which has 3,000 members. The group’s board member agreed to participate in the program and helped sign up other members.
In September, the Fan Leader Network programme sent invitations to fan groups across the world. It targeted fan leaders who were well connected. Many of the fan leaders posted content on social media about their experience in Qatar. In addition, the fan groups were flown to the country for meetings with the World Cup organizers. Fan leaders were given first-class accommodation, access to Qatari officials, and were sent home with information about the World Cup.