By Kate Gill & Beau Busch, PFA Co-Chief Executives

By achieving the pinnacle in representing their country at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, the Socceroos, through no action on their part, find themselves in the midst of what is likely the most profound human rights issue to affect global sport.

That’s why we have sought, with the players, to understand more about the situation in Qatar in relation to human rights. 

As part of FIFPRO, the World Players’ Association and the international labor movement, we have sought to know better so we can do better and have built expertise that has been readily available to the players and sits at the core of any organising effort.

Through this process we have been reminded that two things can be true. 

On the one hand, genuine progress has been made and that awarding the World Cup to Qatar has helped to deliver improvement for the rights of workers in the country – progress that many thought impossible.

On the other, we have learned that the World Cup has been associated with terrible suffering and harm for the very people that have made the tournament possible – the migrant workers.

As one of the 32 nations to qualify, we acknowledge that the players will receive incredible hospitality and warmth when they play in Qatar. 

But at the same time, those within the LGBTI+ community in Qatar are not afforded that same respect in their own country.

The players have spoken today about what they have learned and what they feel is required to deliver a positive legacy.

They know what values define our sport when it is at its best and they know that football’s impact on people should be universally positive. 

They also know that when those values are absent, or if football has caused harm, they have a platform to make a stand.

The players recognise that their views may not be universally popular. 

Some will believe they have not gone far enough whilst others will call on them to stick to football and stay out of “politics”, despite this being a matter of human rights.

This polarity says much about the courage of the players and also the increasingly fractured nature of the world. 

As we near kick-off, the players of every nation will continue to be asked about their position on Qatar.

Acknowledging that the players did not award the World Cup host country is critical.

They have no say in its delivery and operations.

In the absence of leadership from administrators tasked with awarding hosting rights and managing the tournament, it has fallen to players, coaches and fans to provide moral leadership.

These groups have had to grapple with their own choices regarding their love for the sport, their country and protecting human rights. 

Globally, players have used their voice and platform to speak, from Finland’s Tim Sparv to the German, Norwegian and Dutch National Teams, to our own Socceroos.

They have called for respect and dignity for all. This is what can, and should be, the lasting legacy of Qatar 2022. 

A legacy that can only be achieved through the continued reform of Qatar’s labour laws, improved implementation and ensuring that the progress made to date is not rolled back, but rather, becomes an example for the region. 

For those that have had their rights denied or been harmed they must have access to effective remedy, because it is only through doing so can football reconcile with the past and ensure the game’s social licence to operate. 

We stand with FIFPRO and the Building and Wood Workers International in calling for the establishment of a Migrant Workers Resource Centre to provide a voice and support for these incredibly brave but inherently vulnerable workers. 

Equally we know that this tournament should and must aspire to establish and embed the fundamental rights of the LGBTI+ community. Without doing so the sport can make no claim for being authentically inclusive.  

Beyond the final whistle of Qatar 2022, we remain committed to this mission.

This mission must also see Australian football do better within our own shores. Our sport must develop its own human rights policy and strategy as a priority in partnership with the players and affected groups.

This will allow the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to set the standard for human rights at mega-sporting events and beyond.

We hope to continue to work with Football Australia, who has taken important steps in embedding human rights commitments into all its procurement contracts for Qatar, which the players welcome. 

Our journey with the players in pursuit of embedding human rights into football will not be easy.

But just as the Socceroos have shown through their qualification journey, things worth achieving rarely are.