German MEP questions Sepp Blatter's plans on World Cup human rights

A German member of the European Parliament has attacked FIFA president Sepp Blatter, questioning his plans in a letter partially published by German broadsheet FAZ.

Barbara Lochbihler, vice-chairwoman of the parliament's human rights committee and a former Amnesty International general secretary for Germany, criticised Blatter over the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

She said that, despite Qatar's promises to change working conditions on construction sites for the event in the wake of a Guardian report revealing the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, nothing had been done.

"The Qatari government announces reforms, and also [discussed them] in direct talks when I visited the Gulf state at the beginning of the year," she wrote.

"But they have not implemented anything. It is to be feared that nothing will change in the future."

She addressed Blatter, saying: "What is your plan should there be no factual changes to the human rights situation in Qatar despite public statements? Does FIFA have an exit strategy?"

Lochbihler added that she had concerns about human rights conditions in Russia, and claimed there had been "forced labour conditions" on construction sites ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"This scenario is now set for a repeat in 2018 with the World Cup," she wrote. "Provided that it will take place in Russia, how does FIFA want to guarantee that human right violations will not recur on the Russian construction sites?"

The MEP also attacked FIFA for not publishing the full findings of Michael Garcia's report into alleged corruption during and after the bidding process for the two tournaments, saying that was "unacceptable from a political point of view."

Meanwhile, French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet, speaking to RMC, said he did not believe that playing winter World Cup in Qatar "wouldn't be so bad" despite concerns voiced by European leagues about the disruption it would cause for domestic clubs.

"Personally, playing in January doesn't worry me -- but I can understand that Frederic Thiriez [the Ligue de Football Professionnel president and president of the European Professional Football Leagues], is under pressure from a certain number of leagues.

"But for us, playing in winter, whether it be the World Cup for the men or the women, I don't think it would be so bad.

"That said, there are constraints in terms of TV rights and contracts, and I can understand the leagues are discussing it. But FIFA is wise enough to make a decision when the time comes."