The Slatest

Qatar Pays Migrant Workers to Sit at Sporting Events as Fake “Fans ‘

The volleyball tournament whose fake crowd was infiltrated by an AP reporter.

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty

Since it was selected to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has been criticized heavily for its barbaric attitude on LGBT issues and deplorable treatment of migrant workers—some of whom, apparently, are North Koreans who may not be compensated for their labor. The AP has another story today which calls the country’s fitness as a host into question, although it tends toward the bizarre rather than the appalling: Migrant workers in Qatar are apparently bussed into sports events and paid to pretend to be sports fans. An AP reporter actually embedded himself on one of the trips:

One by one, from memory, the men reeled off their employee numbers — no names — to a man who methodically shuffled down the aisle, jotting down the details on a crumpled piece of paper. This ensured he’d later know who to pay, workers said.

At the Al Gharafa Sports Club, we disembarked and formed a line. An official in Qatari robes counted us in, with taps on the shoulder. French volleyballers Edouard Rowlandson and Youssef Krou were winning their bronze-medal match as we filled seats, making the arena appear almost full.

This is such a common and well-known practice, the AP reports, that two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey conducted by the Qatar government “cited ‘the spread of paid fans’ as a ‘significant reason’” that attendance was low at soccer matches in the country. The world is a strange place.