Get your jerseys out and find those flags stashed in the attic, ‘cause this Christmas it’s not only the season to be jolly but also to cheer for your favorite football national team. Well, at least that’s what it should be like as the 2022 Qatar World Cup is upon us. However, the atmosphere surrounding the FIFA event has never been more dark or gloomy. Even the hardest football fanatics are having a hard time enjoying the upcoming sports spectacular, and the question remains how will iGaming companies tackle this delicate event?
Controversy has been surrounding the Cup ever since Qatar landed hosting duties back in 2010. Some of the most common arguments among football fans were that Qatar has no football tradition. And that is true, but football has become a global phenomenon, so allowing only Germany, England, France, and Spain to host doesn’t make much sense at all.
Then there’s the infrastructure. Again, this is a failed attempt to discredit Qatar, because money speaks and wealth whispers. Qatar is whispering more silently than any other. Let’s not fool ourselves, hosting an event of this size requires more money than most European countries are willing to spend. And what about the dates? We want to watch matches in open-air locations with a cold one in our hands. I’ll think we’ll all manage with a glass of mulled wine instead.
And then there’s the controversy shrouding the work conditions, minority treatment, and human rights in general. An argument not even those who booked the VIP tickets can fight, and iGaming brands don’t address it. At least for now.
Back in 2010, the world was a much different place. I’m not saying human rights were no concern, but they weren’t as hot a topic as they are today. BLM, MeToo, and other movements have raised awareness of many issues and forced companies and whole industries to change.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether iGaming firms will embrace the public concerns regarding the football championship. Will they steer away from advertising during an event that cost 6,500 migrant workers their lives (rough estimate by Amnesty International)? Will they at least minimize their budgets?
Gambling companies have always managed to quickly adapt to new trends. At the peak of the MeToo movement, they were all boasting with reports of how many high-position females have a seat in the boardrooms. PR interviews were published on a monthly basis, all praising the amazing work-life balance.
But Qatar is different because it is the biggest event and the one everyone counts on. And who has the courage to ignore it? The price is just too high.
When someone mentions ethics in gambling advertising, we all know what that term implies. Licensed operators are often subjected to different limitations, including late-night advertising, avoiding the use of specific terms, and targeting underage audiences. Most of these are legally imposed and not a single reasonable human being would argue them. Operators will often take advantage of such limitations and accentuate the fact they closely follow all the rules as if they wouldn’t lose their licenses if they didn’t.
Meanwhile, not a single law or regulation encourages brands to think twice before they choose to sponsor or advertise during a certain event. And this is where things get a bit problematic, in my opinion. Such estimates are left to each company to make for itself. All operators that boast about free cookies and refreshments, paid maternity leave, and daycares, are silent as fish when it comes to ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding Qatar.
To some audiences and iGaming companies, the inhumane treatment of workers from Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh is as important as yesterday’s news. Gaming brands might not think of them as potential customers or minorities whose ill-treatment would affect their reputation.
However, Qatar’s way of handling LGBTQ+ communities might prove to be a bigger issue, especially if we compare the situation in the Middle East with the rights this community has in Western Europe.
But Borina, the money will go to broadcasters and not necessarily FIFA, you might say. And you make a valid point. Even so, in this case, I think that making a decision to advertise during FIFA World Cup matches displays the ethical standards, or lack thereof, a gaming brand might have. And yet again, my previous statement should be taken with a grain of salt.
From a business point of view, I understand why Qatar 2022 is important. The football craze is already kicking off. Last week, I saw a bottle of shower gel dressed in the famous Croatian checkerboard. That’s how crazy things get, and it is difficult to blame only iGaming for benefiting from this morally dubious event.
Plans have been made, budgets have been set, and VIP seats have been booked. It would be crazy to ditch it all. Even so, the iGaming industry can make things better by donating part of the revenue to non-profits fighting cruel working conditions in certain countries, sponsorship organizations that promote LGBTQ+ rights, etc. And even if they don’t want to share, they can simply put a disclaimer acknowledging the issue. I’m sure they have plenty of members on their teams who can come up with something. I won’t do the job for them.
FIFA is on a somewhat losing streak here. After Putin’s 2018 championship, there is Qatar, and god knows what will happen in 2026 when Mexico, the USA, and Canada share the stage. I hope the overall atmosphere will be far more cheerful. We’ve had plenty of controversial World Cups, and everyone would like for the focus to be on football, rather than anything else.
This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.