Fans who traveled to Qatar as part of a controversial paid endorser program have been informed by Qatari authorities that their money has been cut off.
The Fanleaders Network is a scheme run by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is the Qatari agency responsible for the World Cup. It has recruited supporters from all over the world, offering travel, accommodation and a place at the World Cup opening ceremony in exchange for enthusiastic and positive social media content. But the Guardian can reveal that per diem payments for food and drink, which some fans had been counting on, have been scrapped as fans pack to travel to the Gulf.
Fan Leader Network members from two European countries said their payments were canceled three days earlier and that authorities blamed the decision on bad press that followed revelations that fans had been paid.
Fans were told in a letter, seen by the Guardian: “Due to recent developments in the media, we are keen to protect our visiting fans from false misstatements about ‘fans receiving payment for the trip'”. Accordingly, the per diem will unfortunately not be issued. The intention was This allowance is a small excess of your personal funds to help serve refreshments during your stay.”
Although fans The Guardian spoke to said losing money hadn’t stopped anyone from traveling, they were worried about how they would pay for the remainder of their stay. One fan said they paid for their car to be serviced assuming the per diem would come in.
“We have requested from the outset that you bring sufficient funds to cover your living expenses and have committed to cover flights, accommodation and opening tickets for the match,” the email to network members read.
The news comes two days before the opening ceremony and comes after FIFA announced that it would no longer be possible to purchase alcohol at World Cup stadiums. This was a decision widely understood to have been forced on football’s governing body at the last minute by Qatar.
Concerns will now grow that additional commitments made by the organizers may also be ignored, including the safety of LGBTQ+ fans in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
According to the Fan Leader Network’s terms and conditions, initially revealed by Dutch broadcaster NOS, travelers were required to promote the tournament and experience as part of the trip. The key to the deal will be to ‘like’ and re-share third-party posts’, and fans are said to have been asked to report social media content critical of the event.
One fan The Guardian spoke to realized this arrangement could easily be achieved, simply by posting the kind of material they were going to do anyway.
Football Supporters Europe CEO Ronan Even said: “Who would have thought that an authoritarian regime with an appalling record on workers’ rights could not be trusted? I think this is what you get for accepting to be paid the equivalent of the Qatari minimum wage every month.” Four days for the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing.”
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has been contacted for comment.
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