WASHINGTON -- Citing allegations of human rights abuses and corruption, a U.S. senator has formally asked FIFA to replace Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament with the second-place bidder.
That would be the U.S.
In a letter to FIFA's executive committee on Friday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) asked international soccer's governing body to make the switch "due to significant concerns regarding workers’ rights in Qatar and corrupt practices surrounding the original Qatari bid for the tournament."
"It is clear that allowing the World Cup and the infrastructure projects leading up to it to take place in Qatar is no longer acceptable in the face of widespread allegations of bribery and labor rights abuses," Casey wrote. "I strongly believe the best course of action in this instance would be to immediately re-allocate the right to host the World Cup to the United States, the runner-up in the bid process completed in November 2010."
FIFA has hunkered down amid claims of bribery and worker abuse against Qatar since assigning the 2022 World Cup to the small, oil-rich nation. FIFA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
A recent report by The Sunday Times in the U.K. alleged that Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari official and erstwhile member of FIFA's executive committee, shelled out $5 million to soccer officials in order to secure the country's bid for the 2022 festivities. Major corporate sponsors of the World Cup -- Adidas, Sony, Visa and Coca-Cola -- have taken the unusual step of pressuring FIFA to investigate.
In addition to the graft allegations, news reports have also documented the wretched working conditions endured by migrant laborers building the soccer facilities in Qatar. An investigation by the Guardian detailed how dozens of Nepalese migrants had died on construction projects while others faced brutal heat and a lack of potable water.
Qatar's state-sponsored migrant labor system, known as kafala, is often compared with indentured servitude, with foreign workers essentially bound to their employers. A withering report from the International Trade Union Confederation said migrant workers were "enslaved," living in squalid conditions as their hosts held their identification cards and exit visas. Labor officials have criticized the Qatar selection from the outset, due to the country's track record on labor rights.
Jim Boyce, FIFA vice president, said he would back a new vote if the corruption allegations hold up.
Casey acknowledged in his letter that there was "no procedural precedent" for re-awarding a World Cup bid. But "given these extraordinary circumstances, it would be prudent and fair to immediately begin preparations and make up for four years of lost time," he wrote.
Casey is chair of the workplace safety subcommittee on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Late last year, he championed an amendment to the defense spending bill that would have encouraged better working conditions in the Bangladesh garment sector. As HuffPost reported, that measure failed after lobbying by U.S. retailers.
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