One of the big announcements that occurs whenever a big sporting tournament happens is what company or companies are to sponsor it. And when it comes to the FIFA World Cup, this has been a big focus for many people. FIFA, the international governing body for many major tournaments in the world of football, made the announcement about the 2022 sponsor being Crypto.com on Tuesday, March 22.
Initially, it doesn’t stand out as being a particularly bad thing or good thing overall. The digital currency exchange brand has been building up quite the reputation around the world as a popular option for traders to utilise. However, when you get down to it, it is important to remember a couple of things. First of all, the World Cup is being held in the country of Qatar this year, and secondly, the trading of cryptocurrencies has been an illegal activity within the Middle Eastern country since 2018.
It seems quite strange that Crypto.com has been named as an official sponsor of the tournament, considering that its branding will be seen inside and outside of the stadiums that are playing host to the matches in the World Cup. While the tournament is scheduled to begin in November, the cryptocurrency trading website is already active, providing opportunities for users to exchange their digital funds. Yet before the tournament takes place, Crypto.com will also offer users the opportunity to attend matches and win official merchandise as part of the deal that it entered into with FIFA.
Laws Surrounding Cryptocurrency in Qatar
The general state of digital currencies in countries within the Middle East is that they are legal overall, but that they cannot really be utilised via banks or to trade in. This is exactly the case when it comes to Qatar. Banks are not allowed to trade in Bitcoin and altcoins there because of the concern over financial crimes and hacking. Furthermore, cryptocurrency is banned within the Qatar Financial Centre. Generally speaking, this makes cryptocurrencies illegal at an institutional level within the country.
Back in February of 2018, the Supervision and Control of Financial Institution Division at the Central Bank of Qatar issued a circular to all banks operating within the country. This warned against them trading in Bitcoin, describing it as being an illegal currency and unsupported by any central bank or government.
Yet according to the CCO of FIFA, Kay Madati, the deal with Crypto.com will help the World Cup games grow “on a global scale”. The brand’s partnerships with other worldwide entities was cited as evidence for this, and it entered into a deal in November 2021 to rename the Los Angeles venue known as the Staples Center to the Crypto.com Arena for a 20-year period. It also entered into a partnership with the Australian Football League for $25 million (£19 million), conscripted itself to a deal for $100 million (£76.1 million) with Formula 1 and also became a sponsor of UFC for 10 years.
This has done little to change the rules surrounding cryptocurrencies in Qatar, though. In January 2020, the country reaffirmed its position on the digital currencies, maintaining the restrictions on them being traded within. Of course, with Crypto.com sponsoring the World Cup, the brand is likely to reach an even wider audience. According to FIFA, over 3.5 billion people watched the World Cup in 2018, which took place in Russia.
Questionable Location Surrounded By Controversy
The fact that Crypto.com has been announced as one of the sponsors of the 2022 World Cup is just one of many curious decisions relating to the event. In fact, many people even questioned why it is being held in Qatar in the first place. Allegations of corruption and bribery dating back to the initial bidding process for the tournament have risen to the surface on countless occasions.
In April of 2020, the Department of Justice in the United States took the decision to indict three individuals who it said were connected to “the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks” when it came to the selection by FIFA of the countries to host the World Cup 2022. It said that FIFA officials were bribed not only to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but the 2018 edition of the event to Russia, too.
As well as this, Qatar has been targeted by Human Rights Watch, the international organisation looking out for people. It says that workers who have been hired to construct the infrastructure for the World Cup have suffered abuse and slave like conditions since Qatar won the bid. It warned of “serious issues” after a worker was jailed for speaking out about migrant rights within the country. Qatar rebuked that claim, stating that the three-year prison sentence was handed because the man, Abudullah Ibhais, was soliciting bribes.
Upon learning of the worker’s jail sentence, various human rights groups spoke out, saying that he was coerced into confessing. Both Human Rights Watch and FairSquare stated that there was no evidence to back-up that Ibhais was undertaking anything illegal and went on to criticise FIFA for having little intent to do anything regarding his case. This, they said, enabled the Qatari authorities to do as they please.
But these aren’t the only issues that have surrounded the World Cup being held in Qatar. The fact that the country has scorching hot summers has led to the tournament being pushed back to November and December, so that players won’t be overwhelmed by increasing temperatures. And the fact that Qatar is such a small company with zero football origins has led to investigations being conducted over how it managed to win the bid in the first place.
Yet what stands out more is that two members of the FIFA executive committee, which consists of 24 men, were suspended prior to the 2010 ballot that allowed Russia and Qatar to host World Cups. Those two men were filmed offering votes for cash. And despite the FIFA probe into the countries’ bids cleared both Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing, the U.S. investigations were joined by those from Switzerland and France.
One final point to touch on regarding Qatar is that the rights of labourers aren’t the only thing in question critically. Human Rights Watch also called for Qatar to introduce rules that would cancel out the male guardianship system in the country, which currently stop women from making many decisions without receiving approval from a male family member. Little has been done on that front so far, though.