Qatar is giving fans paid trips to the World Cup in exchange for praise on social media
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Qatar is upping their attempts to promote a favourable view of the upcoming FIFA World Cup by giving fans all-expenses-paid trips to the tournament in return for positive social media content.
The Associated Press reports that up to 1,600 fans of qualified teams are being recruited by Qatar to sing in the opening ceremony and stay for two weeks to promote the country and tournament.
According to documents seen by AP, fans are needed for a five-minute sing-along section of the opening ceremony.
Fans from each nation will perform a chant or song specific to each country on November 20 before Qatar plays Ecuador.
The reports state that the program has excluded ‘persons with obvious political affiliation’ and aims to have 30 to 50 fanatical supporters from each nation.
The fans are being offered economy flights and accommodation in apartments worth thousands of dollars to stay until at least December 4, or the entire tournament if they choose.
They will also be given a daily allowance of 250 Qatari riyals (£59 or AU$107).
The participants will be termed ‘Fan Leaders’ from each country and will be asked to incorporate content provided by the organisers on their social media accounts.
They will be asked to support the World Cup by liking and sharing posts from affiliated social media accounts.
The fans are not being asked to be ‘a mouthpiece for Qatar’ but to not ‘disparage’ the country or the tournament.
Qatari organisers have said they have consulted a ‘Fan Leader Network that includes 450 people in 59 countries to help improve the World Cup for visitors.
They claim the influencers are ‘leaders within their communities’.
However, the Football Supporters Europe group disputes such claims.
FSE executive director Ronan Evain told the AP: “What is very clear is that they are not fan representatives. They are employees or volunteers of the World Cup and should be considered as such.”
SPORTbible reached out to Qatar representatives, who said: "The Fan Leader Network was set up to engage and communicate directly with football fans worldwide who may have an interest in learning more about the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
"Fans are the cornerstone for any successful tournament and through this network of over 450 individuals from 59 nations, we have been able to understand how fans from a vast variety of footballing cultures enjoy sporting events and offered them direct access to tournament organisers to share their feedback and ask questions about the tournament and host country.
"Our fan leaders are made up of superfans, regular football tournament attendees, grassroots football enthusiasts and official and unofficial fan group members who have all expressed an interest in learning more about the tournament and the host country. It is an unpaid and voluntary role.
"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 to participate in the opening ceremony for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, as a manner of thanking them for their collaboration and recognising their role as leaders within their communities."
Qatar has faced constant criticism over the past decade since they were picked by FIFA to host the 2022 World Cup.
Their poor human rights records on issues such as the treatment of migrant workers, and criminalisation of same-sex relationships have been subject to intense scrutiny.
As the tournament nears, efforts by teams to highlight such conditions have amped up.
The Socceroos became the FIFA World Cup team to put a statement in protest against Qatar’s human rights record.
Denmark will wear single-colour jerseys to ensure any commercial activity or travel that promotes Qatar is minimised.
Meanwhile, nine European countries will wear ‘One Love’ armbands to protest the Middle Eastern country’s same-sex laws.