Gareth Southgate explains why England won’t boycott Qatar World Cup despite human rights issues

Gareth Southgate is unsure what boycotting the World Cup would achieve (Picture: Getty)

England manager Gareth Southgate has rejected calls to boycott the World Cup despite the various human rights issues in Qatar, insisting he is ‘not sure’ what the protest would achieve.

Qatar stand accused of exploiting migrant workers since being awarded the World Cup by FIFA in 2010, with research showing that more than 6,500 have died while building stadiums for the tournament.

There are also concerns over discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and women as the Gulf state has anti-LGBT laws, while homosexuality is illegal.

Asked if his England team would consider boycotting the World Cup as a form of protest, Southgate said: ‘I don’t really know what that would achieve.

‘It would, of course, be a big story, but this tournament would go ahead and the fact is, unfortunately, the biggest issue that is non-religious and non-cultural is what happened with the building of the stadiums. There is nothing we can do about that either, sadly.

‘As soon as we have entered the tournament, that is the point we should decide what we have known for four years or eight years and is the stance against Qatar as a country.

‘Should we protest against Qatar as a country or a specific issue? If it is Qatar as a country we are intertwined as we have seen with Russia.

Thousands of migrant workers have died building stadiums for the World Cup (Picture: Getty)

‘We have all sorts of investment in our countries. Are we all going to stop shopping at Sainsbury’s? The Shard. All sorts of property investment. We are in such a complex world of deals, as we have seen with Saudi Arabia.

‘On one hand, people are talking about the investment in Newcastle, and on the other hand, we are going to them and asking them to reduce the oil prices so we can get our petrol cheaper, so we are all observing these things. It is really difficult and intertwined.’

Southgate believes actively protesting during the World Cup will be more effective than abandoning the tournament altogether.

The Three Lions boss added: ‘I don’t think that is a decision the players or myself can make [to boycott].

‘My understanding is the discussions the FA had with organisations like Amnesty International is that they feel there would be more change if we go and these things are highlighted, so that is also guiding some of the thinking.

‘There are some things that are religious and cultural that are going to be very difficult to change, but there is an opportunity to use the voices and platform in a positive way, there is no doubt.

‘Whatever we do, we are going to be criticised, we are going to try and do our best. We have got to use our voice in the right way at the right time. But there are lots of other issues that we are all dealing with.’

England midfielder and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, says his international teammates have been ‘shocked’ by the ‘horrendous’ allegations of human rights abuses in Qatar.

Southgate’s squad were given a 30-minute briefing on the issues surrounding the tournament when they arrived at St George’s Park earlier this week ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

‘I’d obviously heard quite a lot of stories in the media anyway but it is hard to know what is true and exactly what is going on,’ Henderson said.

Jordan Henderson also responded to calls to boycott the tournament (Picture: Getty)

‘But when we were given the briefing the other day it is quite shocking and disappointing… it’s horrendous really when you look at some of the issues that have been happening there.

‘That is why it takes some time to digest. It is a really important topic and we need to get it right as a team and that is why we need a bit of time to work out as a team going forward.

‘It has sparked conversation off within the team. I am a senior player and I take a lot of responsibility on things like this so I’ll do my best to speak to as many lads as I can along with other senior members of the squad and we’ll come up with something that we feel is the best way to go forward.

‘I don’t think we’ll please everyone with what we do but as long as we stick together in terms of what we believe in and what we think is right that is the most important thing.’

England are bidding to win the World Cup for a second time. Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals in 2018 and the final of the European Championships last summer.

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