A number of England and Wales fans will be paid to travel to Qatar for the World Cup and given free tickets to the opening ceremony, but there is a catch: they will be expected to be ambassadors for the tournament.
Members of the Fan Leader Network, a group which Qatari authorities say “contributes to tournament planning through fan insight, research, content creation and message amplification”, have been offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of travelling to the tournament, providing they agree to certain terms and conditions.
A number of England and Wales fans have signed up to the deal, which includes paid-for flights and accommodation but necessitates a minimum 14-day stay and attending “selected and scheduled” events. One will be the opening ceremony on Sunday 20 November, during which fan leaders will feature in short sections of the TV coverage. “Ideally we hope that you will stay for the entire duration of the 29 day tournament,” organisers told potential travellers. The Times has reported that 40 England fans and 40 Wales fans have agreed to take up the offer.
According to the terms and conditions of a deal initially revealed by the Dutch broadcaster NOS, travellers will in effect be asked to promote the tournament and the experience as part of the trip. Key to the deal will be the “‘liking’ and re-sharing third-party posts”, while fans have also reportedly been asked to flag social media content that is critical of the event.
The conditions asked of fans are similar to those that might be asked of a social media influencer before undertaking paid promotion. But the terms have not put off some supporters, with fan representatives from all 32 countries expected to accept the offer of free hospitality at a tournament expected to be twice as expensive as the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
With the countdown to the tournament firmly under way, the president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, has co-authored a letter with the general secretary, Fatma Samoura, calling on all 32 competing countries to put concerns over the host country to one side and “let football take the stage”.
Infantino did not address concerns over Qatari human rights, for example, writing instead that while “there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world”, football should not be expected to have an answer to every one. He repeated his promise that “everyone is welcome [at the World Cup] regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”, a more detailed commitment than that currently made by the hosts.