England fans paid to 'spy' for Qatar at World Cup

4 November 2022, 14:51

England fans paid to 'spy' for Qatar at the World Cup
England fans paid to 'spy' for Qatar at the World Cup. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

A group of 40 England fans are being paid by Qatar to attend the World Cup, with instructions to deliver positive PR about the tournament, sing certain songs when requested and report critical social media posts.

The group will receive free flights and apartment accommodation, £60 a day in spending money loaded on to a Visa card and complimentary tickets after signing a “code of conduct,” sources said.

Another 40 supporters from Wales have also signed up to the Fan Leader Programme, along with fans from the 30 other competing countries.

The scheme has been derided as a "sinister, distasteful" marketing exercise by supporters groups.

Lusail Stadium where the World Cup final will take place
Lusail Stadium where the World Cup final will take place. Picture: Alamy

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Amid a growing backlash, The Times reports that as many as 40 Three Lions supporters will jet out on November 17, free of charge.

One document sent to fan leaders provides details of the obligations attendees are expected to meet during the opening ceremony which takes place on November 20.

It reads: "In celebration of the fans around the world, over the period of five minutes, fan chants from each nation will be played and you will be expected to stand up, sing the song/chant, wave your flags and represent your country.

"The camera will focus on each national fan group in turn. We will share with you the chant/song selected from your country to ensure you are familiar with it.’ In bold red letters it adds: ‘Be ready in your shirt, flags and scarves to cheer and shout."

The Football Association insists it was only informed about the requirements of the scheme from international media reports and has not officially endorsed the ‘Fan Leader Programme’.

In a statement it said: "We were told this was an opportunity to engage with fans from all competing nations to ensure that the voice of supporters was clearly heard in the planning for the World Cup and that many international football associations were being approached.

"We have had no more involvement with the scheme, and no sight of the ‘code of conduct’ or any of the terms and conditions of involvement."

FIFA have written to World Cup teams urging them to focus on the football in Qatar and not let the sport be dragged into ideological or political ‘battles’ in the wake of a string of protests about LGBTQ rights to the treatment of migrant workers.

The letter from FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the governing body’s secretary general Fatma Samoura follows a number of protests made by World Cup teams, on issues ranging from LGBTIQ rights to concerns over the treatment of migrant workers.

In the letter to the 32 competing nations, infantino and Samoura wrote: "Please, let’s now focus on the football!

"We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.

"But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists."