Organisers of the Qatar 2022 World Cup have confirmed that they are paying select fans travel in return for positive social media coverage.
Dutch broadcaster NOS has reported that 50 fans are having their travel and accommodation costs paid by the World Cup organisers in return for positive posts and reporting "any offensive, degrading or abusive comments" to the Supreme Committee (SC).
"As the tournament nears, we have invited our most active fan leaders to personally nominate a small selection of fans to join us as our guests, as a manner of thanking them for their collaboration," a spokesperson for the SC told Reuters.
Many have criticised FIFA for awarding Qatar this year’s World Cup due to the countries policies on homosexuality and women's rights, labour laws and treatment of migrant workers. It is reported that more than 6500 migrant workers have died in the country since the awarding of the World Cup in 2010 but Human Rights Watch believes the total would actually be much higher as only workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are accounted for.
The selected supporters have had to sign a 'code of conduct' in which the SC asks the Fan Leaders to agree to incorporate its content in their social media posts and to support the World Cup by liking and re-sharing posts by third parties about the tournament.
The organisers have stated that these fans are not to be a “mouthpiece” for the controversial tournament but it “would obviously not be appropriate to disparage Qatar, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy or the FIFA World Cup.”
On its website, the Qatar World Cup describes its Fan Leaders program as a network of around 400 fans and influencers from 60 countries who have offered "insights, research, content creation and message amplification," for the tournament. Belgian and French media have also reported that selected groups of fans from these countries were offered a free trip to the World Cup by Qatar.
The organisers did not say how many fans they had invited or provide any financial details.