England fans 'being paid shady backhanders to be SPIES in Qatar – with free tickets and orders to sing for TV cameras' | The Sun

England fans 'being paid shady backhanders to be SPIES in Qatar – with free tickets and orders to sing for TV cameras' | The Sun


QATAR is paying England fans to "spy" on their friends and be positive about the country during this month's World Cup, in return for free flights and tickets.

The group of Three Lions supporters have reportedly been handed instructions to sing certain songs when required and report any critical social media posts.

All 40 will receive free flights and accommodation in the desert country, £60 a day in spending money loaded onto a Visa card, and complimentary tickets to World Cup matches.

Qatar made the supporters sign a "code of conduct" in order to become spies, The Times reported.

The group of fans is understood to include four members of the England band, including leader John Hemmingham.

All are booked onto flights leaving for the Qatari capital Doha on November 17.


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Another 40 supporters from Wales have also signed up to the so-called "Fan Leader Programme", along with groups from the 30 other competing countries.

But supporters' groups have branded the move a "sinister, distasteful" marketing exercise that looks to whitewash the tiny kingdom's appalling human rights record.

Everyone who has signed up for the scheme in Qatar is guaranteed a ticket to the opening ceremony but must stay in the country for at least two weeks.

They will be sat in groups and told to sing at appropriate times for the television cameras.

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One document sent to fan leaders 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 letters, the document adds: "Be ready in your shirt, flags, and scarves to cheer and shout."

Another document explains that fans must accept the terms and conditions.

Sources claim the code of conduct that supporters must sign in order to get their free tickets includes a request not to criticise Qatar, and to "report any offensive, degrading or abusive comments" from other fans.

The "spies" are also asked to supply screenshots of any unacceptable messages that might be sent.

At best they're volunteers for the World Cup and at worst they're a mouthpiece for the Supreme Committee

Hemmingham, 59, appeared on Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy panel at a recent fans' forum hosted by the England Supporters Travel Club at Wembley Stadium.

There, he told the audience about his positive experience during a recent trip to Doha.

"Qatar is very safe, there are lots of rules and no crime," he said.

Last year, it was reported by The Guardian that more than 6,500 migrant labourers died during the construction of the World Cup facilities.

Meanwhile, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and under the country's Sharia law, a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's.

The Sun Online has approached Hemmingham and the England Band as well as The FA for comment.

Qatar is desperate to present a positive image of itself during the flagship tournament and has paid David Beckham millions to act as an ambassador for the hosts.

In March last year, Qatar's Supreme Committee, which is organising the World Cup, approached the FA asking for members of the official supporters' club to join a fan engagement forum.

Originally, it was believed that the scheme was simply a chance for a free trip to Qatar as well as complimentary flights, tickets, and accommodation for the tournament itself, in return for spreading information to other fans.

But it is understood that in September, those approached were asked to sign up to a "code of conduct" to guarantee their all-expenses-paid trip to the tournament.

"It all sounds a bit sinister and distasteful," said one leading member of a fan group – who asked not to be named.

The scheme has not been endorsed by either the Football Supporters' Association or the FA.

An FA statement claimed English football's governing body only found out about the scheme's requirements from media reports.

"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," it said.

The statement went on: "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."

Qatar has defended the scheme.

Ahsan Mansoor, the fan engagement director for the World Cup, who also attended the recent forum at Wembley, insisted that "there is no obligation to promote or do anything".

The country claims it has enlisted some 20,000 volunteers from around the world to help, working at hotels, hospitals, and airports, as well as in the stadiums themselves.

But Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, slammed the move, as well as any fans groups who signed up for it.

"At best they're volunteers for the World Cup and at worst they're a mouthpiece for the Supreme Committee," he said.

The Sun Online has approached the World Cup's Supreme Committee in Qatar for comment.

And football's international governing body FIFA – which was roundly criticised by human rights groups for awarding the tournament to Qatar – has also begged supporters to concentrate on football.

FIFA sent a letter to all nations competing, stressing that "everyone will be welcome" in Qatar.

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Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, and his general secretary Fatma Samoura, said in the letter: "Please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists."

The letter, seen by Sky News, comes after eight competing European nations, including England and Wales, announced their captains would wear multicoloured "One Love" armbands at the tournament, in response to Qatar's abysmal record on LGBTQ+ rights.

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