FIFA 2022 World Cup: Qatar’s preparation and legislation

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The State of Qatar, having been awarded the rights to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup, has embarked on remarkable projects in different fields to meet the expectations outlined in the bid document.

A country’s preparations to host an international sporting event need serious consideration. Many aspects must be taken care of including but not limited to changing existing legislation, building infrastructure, workers’ rights and immigration, sponsorships, consumer protection, tourism, free trade, intellectual property (IP) rights, accessibility to stadia, taxation, counterfeiting, gambling, betting, to name but a few. The 2022 World Cup is the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East and to be hosted by an Arab nation. Any country has to meet FIFA’s standards to host such an event. Qatar has the option of introducing new laws, amending existing legislation and may conclude mutually beneficial bilateral agreements with FIFA.

The proclamation came in December 2010 and this brought about Qatar’s wide infrastructural plans for hosting in nine eco-friendly stadiums, up-to-date facilities, a world-class metro rail network connecting locations and a nationwide construction boom.

The infrastructural developments so far have been nothing short of superb with most of the stadia already nearing completion.

FIFA requires a minimum of eight playing venues and, in turn, Qatar proposed nine new stadia and the renovation of three, making a total of 12 venues in seven host cities: Lusail, Al-Khor, Al-Rayyan, Ras-Abu, Al-Thumama, Education City and Al-Wakrah. The seven ‘state-of-the-art’ stadia have advanced open-air cooling technology, being built from scratch. The Qatar Olympic Committee, Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar Foundation etc together monitor the development of stadia and related facilities.

It is pertinent to note that in the wave of massive infrastructural developments legislations are not left out. Countries such as Russia and South Africa enacted new laws to meet FIFA’s standards and Qatar is on track to announce such new laws.

Qatar has already promulgated important legislation on arbitration, employment, immigration, commercial litigation,foreign investments and so on. Certain laws were amended in readiness for the event and to cover eventualities afterwards.

New legislation includes but is not limited to:

• arbitration rules of Qatar Sports Arbitration Tribunal;

• immigration law;

• foreign investment law; and

• Qatar labour law.

Qatar has established an exclusive Tribunal for Arbitration in Sports, ‘The Qatar Sports Arbitration Tribunal’ (QSAT) following the norms of the International Sports Tribunal, The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS; Tribunal arbitral du sport, TAS), headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland which is a quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sports through arbitration.

QSAT operates under Qatar Sports Arbitration Foundation, the Arbitration Rules are issued by the Foundation. QSAT has its own Constitution and hosts world class arbitrators and mediators. So that international standards can be met, the working pattern has been modelled according to the CAS to assure that the best international practices are adopted. The Tribunal ensures independent, impartial and transparent trial proceedings. Given that for every major sporting event, there is a likelihood of grievances arising, the need to set up a tribunal to resolve such dispute becomes paramount.

The Qatar Arbitration Tribunal aims at providing parties with sports-related disputes with the appropriate disputes resolution mechanism through arbitration and mediation. With the 2022 World Cup imminent, the innovation of setting up the tribunal here in Qatar is laudable.

The recent amendment of the Immigration Laws to the extent that there is no longer need for exit permits for expatriates working in the State of Qatar is a welcome development as an expatriate can readily attend to emergencies outside of the State without recourse to applying and waiting for exit permit approval.

With regard to the Foreign Investment Law, it is important to note that prior to the coming into force of Law No 1 of 2019 in January 2019, foreign companies seeking to invest in Qatar’s economy had to do so in partnership with a Qatari partner who would own not less than 51 per cent of the capital. In the usual practice, this Qatari partner is referred to as the sponsor. Nevertheless, a foreign investor could own 100 per cent of capital if their investment is within the free zones after getting requisite approvals from the relevant authority. In this case the foreign investor would not need a Qatari sponsor.

A foreign-based company, which has a contract to operate in Qatar, may not incorporate a new company for the sole purpose but must establish a branch of its office in Qatar and have that branch registered in the company register with the details of incorporation of the company abroad. In addition, the branch is bound to carry out only the contract for which it has been licensed. Such branch office is not considered as a separate legal entity – it is restricted to carrying out only the contract for which the branch office was licensed and nothing more.

These recent amendments in the Foreign Investment Law has created an avenue for increased foreign investment and with the incentives provided by the law the economy has become more investor-friendly. The Law allows foreign investors to establish entities in Qatar with 100 per cent ownership in specified manufacturing sectors, after obtaining the necessary approvals from relevant departments.

The Labour Law is not excluded from recent amendments. Employees who have an indefinite term of contract and have worked with the same employer for up to five years and those who have completed their definite term of employment would not have to obtain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) in order to seek for alternative employment in the State of Qatar. Additionally, when employment disputes arise, the law provides for expedited proceeding and there is a special committee set up solely for labour matters.

The existing Labour Law ensures standard remuneration and working hours, leave, compensation, safety requirements and prohibits exploitation during employment. As the exit permit system and NOC have been discontinued or modified in such a way as to protect employees’ interests, the country is now able to showcase its allegiance to expatriates in preparation for this major event. An expat’s son can now work in any private sector under their sponsorship. Temporary work visas are also granted for selected professions.

The Supreme Committee and Qatar Foundation (QF) adopted a Charter of welfare standards in 2013 for workers which guaranteed their rights. The Charter guarantees genuine recruitment and impartial treatment and also ensures responsibility from the employer in case of repatriation, dignified treatment, access to information and other such work-related aspects.

The Charter prescribes minimum standards for workers in the construction sector, their working conditions, benefits, equality, insurance and skill development which are to be met by contractors and subcontractors of QF.

Illegal practices are common while hosting sports events. One of such is ‘ambush marketing’, which is an unhealthy marketing strategy among rivalries by which companies compete for exposure. If a competing company attempts to associate its products with an event which has already announced official sponsors, this may be considered as ambush marketing. The Qatar government may consider legislation to ensure that action will be taken against breaking laws which relate to this. Existing IP protection laws may not be enough to prevent such violations. FIFA has its own code, listing such illegal marketing practices.

Betting and gambling are prohibited in Qatar. However, the government may take measures to prevent such activities by blocking external sites handled by foreign online agencies.

Qatar’s import and export regulations do not permit goods entering the country without necessary approval from the relevant authority. Qatar Free zones enjoy more freedom to ease the flow of foreign business coming to Qatar. Defective and out-of-date goods are not allowed on sale in Qatar. Those who breach these regulations may be prosecuted.

Qatar expects to see a major hike in tourism and is under the global spotlight. Accommodation facilities are expected to increase by 2022, forcing the government to implement new regulation for stricter monitoring of the tourism sector. Currently, applications are to be submitted before the Qatar Tourism Authority for such licences.

By a recent amendment the government ensured a ban on accommodation of workers' complexes within family housing areas. The government is also taking care of accessibility requirements for the disabled at the stadia, airport and transport facilities in line with the FIFA standards.

There is no denying the laws of any state go a long way in its development. The State of Qatar has left no stone unturned in its preparation for the FIFA 2022 World Cup and quest for sustainable development.