FA urged to investigate England's World Cup hotel over conditions

FA urged to investigate conditions for migrant workers at England’s Qatar World Cup hotel after former staff claim they received £10-a-day at the 5-star Souq Al Wakra and were not paid overtime even after toiling 12 hours-a-day

  • Former staff have spoken to human rights workers about work at the hotel
  • England boss Gareth Southgate selected the Souk Al Wakra as the team base
  • The five-star, luxury, beachfront complex is ideally located 10 miles from Doha
  • Ex-workers say they weren’t paid overtime and staff were on the minimum wage 

Concerns have been raised over the conditions for migrant workers at England’s luxury hotel in Qatar, where the Three Lions will stay during the World Cup finals.

The five-star Souq Al Wakra hotel will be the England bolthole for the tournament, which begins on November 21.

The beachfront complex, where rooms can cost up to £300-a-night, was selected by manager Gareth Southgate after assessments of team bases prepared by the Qatar authorities for the 32 participating nations at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Southgate was attracted to the ideal location of the hotel complex, which has 101 rooms, because it is close to the stadiums in use in the tournament and by the beach. 

But former workers have told human rights investigators that some staff at the Souq Al-Wakra hotel, 10 miles south of the capital Doha, only received around £9 per day for their labour and the hotel refused to pay overtime, despite employees saying they must work for 12 hours in busy periods.

It is also claimed that migrant workers from some countries are treated more favourably than others, with Bangladeshis and Nepalis losing out to staff from Arab countries.

England manager Gareth Southgate has chosen a base that appears to be low key

The claims made to the human rights group, Equidem, come less than four months before the hotel staff will be waiting on England players and officials.

Qatar’s hotel sector has expanded at an incredible rate to allow the country to host the World Cup and much of the workforce is drawn from the two million migrant workers, who prop up the economy of the small, oil-rich state.

Equidem, which specialises in the treatment of migrant workers, says current employees are often too scared to speak out in Qatar for fear of losing their job.

However, it has spoken to staff who worked at the Souq Al Wakra hotel during the past two years, one of them leaving in recent months. Equidem is now calling on FIFA and the Football Association to do more to assess the treatment of workers at its chosen accommodation.

‘We are finding cases of workers not being adequately paid and not being paid overtime,’ said Mustafa Qadri, chief executive of Equidem.

England are hoping to recreate the atmosphere of recent tournaments in order to thrive

Among those staff to speak out is a former supervisor at the Souq Al-Wakra, who was employed last year and claimed the hotel did not pay overtime.

One member of the team, who said he was thereuntil a few months ago, claimed some workers from Asian countries only received the legal minimum of 1,000 Qatari Rials per month, which equates to around £10 per day, while those from Arabic countries were paid more, it was claimed.

Qatar introduced a minimum wage of 1,000 QR last year, with employers expected to provide board and lodging, or an allowance for food of 500QR and for accommodation of 300QR on top.

At the time, the new law was welcomed by human rights groups as a step in the right direction, even though it was considered too low.

The England team features some of the highest-paid players in the Premier League, including Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling, who earn around £300,000-a-week and John Stones, who is believed to receive £250,000 for seven days’ work.

Qadri, does not begrudge playerstheir earnings, but given the scale of the tournament and the profits that will be enjoyed, he believes the migrant workers are being short changed.

Families of the players are expected to find accommodation nearby in the coastal village

The hotel is a five-star facility and luxurious, but less expensive than some other options

And while workers are grafting for scant reward, others will enjoy huge benefits. FIFA itself is set to make more than £3 billion and the hotels themselves, which are booked up throughout November and December, can expect big profits.

‘The question does have to be raised, why is their pay so low when not only are these hotels so expensive to stay at, but football associations, corporates and FIFA have spent billions on the tournament?

‘Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries. So how is it these workers are so underpaid?’

Sportsmail contacted the Souq al Wakra and detailed the specific concerns raised by workers with Equidem, including, payment of a basic salary of 1,000QR per month, non-payment of overtime and preferential treatment for workers based on nationality.

The resort is wedged alongside a newly built souq in Al Wakra with wasy access to the beach

In a statement, the general manager of the hotel, Emad Nabulsi, said: ‘The hotel is adhering to all guidelines issued and procedures required by Qatar’s Supreme Committee in relation to recruitment processes and employment in the lead up to and during the FIFA World Cup.

‘All team members are treated equally and fairly, irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity or religion. Recruitment processes and salaries are in line with the country’s guidelines and the same opportunities for promotion are available to all.’

Last month, Amnesty International accused the FA of ‘completely lacking in courage’ to speak out against human rights abuses in Qatar.

The tournament has been dogged by reports of human rights issues in the 12 years since FIFA controversially appointed Qatar to host the blue riband event. Thousands of migrant workers, involved in the construction of roads, towns, hotels and stadiums, have died during the preparations.

It is feared many may have perished because of heat exhaustion but in alot of cases, post-mortems were not carried out and records did not include detailed accounts of their deaths.

Migrant workers in Qatar are now entitled to minimum wage of £9 per day under new rules

Workers in the construction industry complained of cramped living conditions

Migrant workers in Qatar were paid £200-a-month to work in intense heat ahead of World Cup

Now, attention has turned to the conditions for workers in hotels, who will serve more than one million fans and the thousands of officials, staff and players associated with FIFA, sponsors and the national teams, during the month-long competition.

Various investigations have already highlighted widespread abuses, including low pay, unpaid overtime, long hours and poor living conditions for staff. 

‘[There is also a] phenomenon of workers coming from a background that means [they] can’t get into management, [are] not getting the promotions and bonuses others are getting,’ said Qadri, who has researched the sector extensively.

‘There is a lot of talk about… Arabic-speaking workers being selected for the higher roles. It is an issue around racial discrimination.’

The England players have been vocal about discrimination in society, with the team taking the knee before matches to raise awareness of the issue and players themselves have also been the victims of vile abuse on social media and at matches overseas.

Qadri hopes they will take an interest in what is happening Qatar, too.

Largest proportion of deaths among migrant workers are recorded as ‘natural causes’

‘The England football team is an inspiring young team, they take the knee to oppose racism, rightly,’ he said.

He said it would send ‘a powerful message’ if Gareth Southgate and his team spoke out about the treatment of workers in Qatar and engaged directly with human rights workers on the issue.


£138billion – estimated cost of staging the 2022 World Cup

£3.4bn – the revenues FIFA expect to earn in 2022 

£1.9bn – the value of FIFA broadcasting rights in 2022

£1bn estimated profits for FIFA in 2022

£660million – the cost of the Al Bayt stadium in Qatar 

£65m paid to Six Construct to refurbish the Khalifa Stadium 

3,200 migrants worked on the showpiece Khalifa Stadium every day

£3,000 – how much some migrants paid to get  job at Qatar’s World Cup 

£225 per month – the new minimum wage for migrant workers in Qatar

£9-a-day – what the minimum wage works out at for migrant workers

Sources: FIFA Annual Report 2020 and Amnesty International 

Following criticism of the FA in June, Gareth Southgate defended his players and claimed there is ‘a lot going on behind the scenes’

‘They’re making a stand every time they speak,’ he said.

Captain Harry Kane has been in discussions with other teams about how to present a united front of the issue of human rights at the World Cup.

And earlier this year, Jordan Henderson, a senior member of the squad, described Qatar’s record of human rights abuses as ‘shocking, disappointing and horrendous’ following an internal briefing from FA officials.

Equidem wants football’s governing bodies to take a closer look at what is happening within the hotel sector in Qatar and at the Souq al Wakra.

‘It is for FIFA, the FA and the England football team to take this forward,’ said Qadri. ‘They should want to know through independent sources what is going on. There is a really big concern this is still happening.

‘We would welcome the chance to speak to the FA about how they can do their due diligence to get to the truth.

‘And if workers are facing issues there should be compensation. The FA and England football team really need to be leading on that. They could make a difference.’

Under worldwide scrutiny, Qatar has adopted a series of labour reforms in recent years. In addition to a minimum wage, the country officially abolished the Kafala system in August 2020, which gave employers almost total control over workers’ employment and immigration status and it has set up centres in eight countries to help make migrants aware of their rights.

Equidem and other rights groups acknowledge the steps being taken, but continue to raise concerns about practices on the ground.

Following a report into the abuse of workers’ rights last month, a spokesman for the Qatar government told The Telegraph: ‘Qatar has repeatedly said that systemic reform does not happen overnight and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. The reality is that no other country has come so far so quickly.’

Norway wore t-shirts protesting the human rights record of 2022 World Cup hosts, Qatar

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