Supply Chain Risk and deaths connected with the 2022 World Cup

Is another type of supply chain reputational risk emerging from the construction projects related to the World Cup in Qatar? The Guardian has taken a lead in drawing attention to the treatment of migrant workers, many from Nepal, India and Pakistan, who are building the new stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. And last week, the newspaper reported that they had “official documents revealing that 185 Nepalese men died last year alone”.

That’s a shocking figure, even if some died from natural causes. Indeed, it is difficult to know exactly what has driven such a figure; many deaths are reported as heart attacks, but how many of those are caused by working in the 40 degree heat or poor working conditions is impossible to tell. And verified figures for workers from other countries have yet to emerge, so we also don’t know whether there is particular health issue with the Nepalese.

The new risk we mentioned above might just start to apply to the sponsors of the tournament. Whilst this issue hasn’t really impinged on the public consciousness in Europe and the US yet, it might do. (It feels like it could be one hidden camera documentary away from perhaps becoming front page news more generally, not just in the Guardian). And those sponsors would not want the blood of hundreds of dead construction workers on their hands, I’m sure.

So the Prevasi Nepali Co-ordination Committeee (PNCC), which represents the cause of the workers, is trying to mobilise opinion to persuade the Qatar government to take stronger action. That includes appealing to the sponsors.

“We call upon the World Cup's corporate sponsors – Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa, Hyundai and Budweiser – urgently to review their arrangements with Fifa," a (PNCC) spokesman said.

We’ll see if that has an effect – but in the meantime, the Qatar government is saying all the right things.

Qatari officials insist moves are being made to hold construction companies, and their myriad sub-contractors, to existing labour laws, which they argue are among the strongest in the region. Qatar's under-secretary to the ministry of labour, Hussain al-Mulla, has said that at least 99% of businesses are complying with the law. The ministry of labour says it is "committed to ensuring that all workers are treated in a fair and just manner".

But clearly there needs to be greater understanding of just why the 185 Nepalese perished in the cause of the World Cup last year – and to try and ensure we don’t see hundreds or thousands more dead before the work is completed. And let’s just remember, there was not a single work-related death during the entire 2012 London Olympics construction programme.

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