This Isn’t Football.

With the World Cup starting this weekend, we're calling on the FA to take action.

Authors: Jack Maycock
  • Reading time: 3 min.
  • Posted on: November 18, 2022

The World Cup begins this weekend. It is supposed to be about passion, skill, and bringing all people together. But FIFA has once again put greed over the spirit of football, by choosing countries that criminalise the LGBTQIA+ community and have a long-standing record of human rights abuses, like Qatar. This Isn’t Football.

What is the This Isn’t Football campaign?

Two weeks ago, Shape History launched This Isn’t Football, calling on the English FA to take a stand and support the Pay Up FIFA demands to compensate the families of migrant workers that have faced human and labour rights abuses, and to make sure it never happens at a World Cup again.

Since winning their bid to host the Football World Cup, Qatar has undergone an unprecedented building programme. During this time, there have been thousands of recorded migrant worker deaths and abuses. Thousands of people for whom a football tournament has cost their lives and livelihoods. Thousands of people that will not be coming home.

While death records remain mysterious — so exact numbers are hard to come by — it is clear that a large number of deaths occurred from unsafe labour practices and the living conditions that migrant workers have been subjected to. The families of these migrant workers are often left uncompensated, in debt, and in the dark over what happened to their loved ones. 

A number of global human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have set up Pay Up FIFA, calling on FIFA to create a remediation fund of $440 million, (the same as the total World Cup prize money), for the families of those who have died, suffered abuse or not received appropriate income for their work.


There is no question that selecting a host country is a challenge. But FIFA knew that Qatar is a dangerous place for LGBTQIA+ people, they knew that the sponsorship system for migrant workers was littered with human rights abuses, and they chose to prioritise making profit over human lives.  It is now their responsibility to deal with the human consequences — workers and their families cannot be forgotten and left to deal with the impact.

FIFA must now ensure independent investigations into any human rights issues or complaints in Qatar. FIFA must reform their selection processes to include an audit of existing construction procedures in prospective host countries, and FIFA must provide full transparency throughout the bid and preparation process with regards to who is being employed.

We believe the English Football Association (FA) can play an important role in creating this change. 

As one of the most influential football associations, the words they use and actions they take matters. 

At the time of launching our campaign, The FA’s had released one lacklustre  statement, outlining their “belief compensation should be paid for any death or injury during construction.” 

It was meaningless as it didn’t specify who should pay this compensation, how much they should pay, or the scope of who is affected. This was also in contrast to the German DFB who supported the Pay Up FIFA campaign, with the DFB President stating:

“FIFA has passed a Human Rights Policy and it expressly states that FIFA will pay compensation where it has taken responsibility for tournaments, for measures it takes. And that’s why I would like to draw your attention again to the fact that you have to live and comply with these principles – if you give them to yourself.”

Bernd Neuendorf, DFB President

However, two weeks before the World Cup — the same day we launched the This Isn’t Football campaign — FIFA sent a letter to all 32 participating countries, calling on them to “focus on football” and stop trying to hand out moral lessons. This was a mistake. It only increased tension and anger towards them. 

At the same time, our campaign has been getting football fans to email Mark Bullingham, CEO of the FA, to commit to greater action, and not just words. 

Four days later, the FA — as part of the UEFA working group — alongside nine other European Associations released a statement specifically calling on FIFA to create the compensation fund. 

While the statement was written very diplomatically and still did not include the $440 million Amnesty figure, or the scope of who should receive compensation, it is the first time that 8 of the countries, including the English FA, have called on FIFA to create this fund. 

In another welcomed development, last night (17 November), the FA went further to push FIFA to create the fund, with Mark Bullingham telling broadcasters that the FA will continue adding pressure following the World Cup. This is incredibly welcome news.  But it’s important to remember that actions are more important than cleverly crafted statements. 

We call on the FA to….

1. Outline what exactly the FA will do to ensure a compensation fund is created before the World Cup ends, and pressure for the full $440 million Amnesty figure. 

2. If a fund is not created before the end of the World Cup,  clearly outline the actions the FA will take in the weeks and months to follow, and maintain public pressure on FIFA to ensure the call is not brushed under the carpet and forgotten. 

3. Publicly call for all future tournaments to be protected from discrimination, abuse and injustice. 

4. Commit all prize money the FA receive to migrant workers if a compensation fund is not created by FIFA

This isn’t football campaign demands

How can you support?

To get the FA to take increased and meaningful action, we need to build and maintain pressure. 

To do this, we need you.

Together, we can seek justice and make sure this never happens again.

About the History Shaper Programme

This Isn’t Football has been developed by Shape History, as part of our History Shaper Programme. The campaign has been spearheaded by Jack Maycock, Rochelle Shanthakumar, Joel Harvey, and Harry Thorpe. 

The History Shaper Programme gives Shape History team members the opportunity to not be restricted in the work they create, both in terms of creativity and topic, by developing and launching campaigns that they personally are passionate about.  It is funded through the core business, which commits to 10% of our projected resources for the year ahead.