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EUSA will still stream World Cup matches despite Qatar’s use of forced labour, persecution of LGBTQ+ people

Edinburgh University Students’ Association will still screen matches from the 2022 World Cup despite backlash over host country Qatar’s human rights abuses.

Students’ Association president Niamh Roberts made the announcement in a letter responding to an open letter signed by 40 societies calling for EUSA to suspend plans to stream the events.

Roberts said that the decision was made to avoid the loss of approximately £9,000 in income that would go towards funding student services.

In addition, they said that EUSA wanted to avoid canceling 700 hours of staff time that had already been booked.

The Student has contacted the Students’ Association to ask why the events had not been canceled earlier, before staff time had been booked.

Andrew Wilson, originator of the open letter, former EUSA president, and president of the 93% Club said to The Student:

“For a Students’ Association President, who ran on a platform of establishing a Citizens Assembly, to fall at the first hurdle and refuse to listen to calls from their members shows they are not serious about harnessing the power of the student voice.

“It is also deliberately misleading to suggest income from the sale of pints contributes to funding of the Advice Place and Student Opportunities.

“The funding for the aforementioned vital services is drawn from the annual £3 million+ ‘block grant’ from the University of Edinburgh.”

Roberts’ letter continued to say: “We refuse to ignore the flagrant human rights abuses committed by the state of Qatar, and will be using our screening of the World Cup as an opportunity for education and activism.”

EUSA’s “opportunity for education and activism” is to include the “promoting [of] organisations which support queer representation in sport throughout the competition”.

This promotion is set to be included in the Association’s advertising of the World Cup streaming.

EUSA recently removed at least one advertisement posted on social media before Roberts’ statement.

A report by the Glasgow Guardian published in 2021 found that EUSA was one of the best-funded Russell Group university students’ unions.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Students’ Association received over £3,000,000 from the University of Edinburgh, double what the University of Glasgow’s students’ unions received.

It is unclear to The Student whether the money raised from the World Cup can be put towards the provisioning of vital services.

Edinburgh University Students’ Association declined to comment before deadline.

EUSA President Niamh Roberts’ letter

To the signatories and readers of the open letter regarding the World Cup in Qatar,

Thank you for reaching out and calling on the Students’ Association to take action on this important issue. As you highlighted in your letter, the Students’ Association is committed to the protection of marginalised groups, and the values of liberation and solidarity. As such, we absolutely share the serious concerns about FIFA’s choice to host the World Cup in one of the most repressive countries in the world.

In response to your letter, we have reflected on both the risks and the benefits of hosting viewings of the World Cup. After careful consideration, we have decided to continue streaming the events in our venues. In the interest of transparency, I have contextualised the decision below:

  • During the last World Cup, the Sports Bar generated approximately £25,000 of income; this is £9,000 more than during a standard 3-week period. Every penny of this goes back into paying for essential services for students. Services like your Advice Place, which offers free and impartial advice to all students. It helps fund the Student Opportunities department who provide support to over 300 societies and student groups. It also helps ensure that we can pay utility bills, absorb increasing food and drink costs to keep them at a fixed price for you, on top of so many other services that we offer.
  • Cancelling the viewing events at this stage would also mean cancelling 700 hours of additional staff time over the World Cup period, which would be directly to the cost of many students who rely on these shifts for income.
  • The state of Qatar is unlikely to directly benefit from any advertising revenue generated by us streaming the events. Students will simply go to other venues and we will have lost the income highlighted above.
  • We want students to be able to socialise without having to buy food and drink in another Edinburgh bar. Our venues are a safe and affordable space providing a welcome option to those who want to watch the football, without having to spend disposable income they may not have. This is especially relevant when 77% of students are cutting back on socialising to save money this year, according to NUS.

However, we refuse to ignore the flagrant human rights abuses committed by the state of Qatar, and will be using our screening of the World Cup as an opportunity for education and activism. We will be promoting organisations which support queer representation in sport throughout the competition, and including this in our advertising. We will also be encouraging students to sign the Amnesty International petition calling for Qatar to compensate migrant workers for their horrendous treatment.

We’re open to continuing a dialogue about the Students’ Association’s engagement with world events, and would encourage you to attend the November Student Council. At this meeting, you can vote on a motion proposed by Supply Chain Justice which would enhance the focus on human rights and sustainability in the Students’ Association’s procurement.

In circumstances like these, it is difficult for us to balance our principles with the impact on our students. I recognise you may disagree with our decision, but I hope that you feel I have responded in a transparent and considered way, and we unequivocally support your right to boycott the World Cup.

– Niamh Roberts, President Edinburgh University Students’ Association 

Full statement to The Student by 93% Club president, Andrew Wilson

It is deeply disappointing that a member-led union has chosen to put management chasing income before the calls of their members.

For a Students’ Association President, who ran on a platform of establishing a Citizens Assembly, to fall at the first hurdle and refuse to listen to calls from their members shows they are not serious about harnessing the power of the student voice.

It is also deliberately misleading to suggest income from the sale of pints contributes to funding of the Advice Place and Student Opportunities.

The funding for the aforementioned vital services is drawn from the annual £3 million+ ‘block grant’ from the University of Edinburgh.

We are currently considering our options to escalate our actions against the Students’ Association’s decision and to express our dissatisfaction with the lack of action from our student representatives.

Open letter from 40 societies calling for EUSA to suspend World Cup streaming plans

To,

Niamh Roberts, Students’ Association President

Alan Duff, Students’ Association Commercial Services Director

In full awareness of the realities of human rights violations, same-sex relationship bans and the mistreatment of migrant workers surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, we, the undersigned societies, and student groups, call on the Students’ Association to:  

  • Refuse to show any of the 2022 World Cup coverage and/or games at any Students’ Association venue
  • Cease all marketing promoting the 2022 World Cup
  • Refuse to capitalize and make profit from an event contributing to actions inherently against Students’ Association’s core values and vision

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is not just an event surrounded in controversy but a true issue of social justice, and the erasure of inclusivity and equality in the worldwide sporting community. Our sense of urgency in signing this letter cannot be overstated. 

As members of the student community, we believe that it is our moral responsibility to show resistance and refuse to compromise on our Students’ Association’s values. 

We request our Students’ Association shows courage, applies prudent risk management and acts as a progressive leader in advocating for the LGBT+ community. We ask that the Association divests its direct and indirect promotion of this event and refuses to continue the cycle of exploitation by making profit from the showing of any World Cup coverage.  

By doing so, we believe our Students’ Association will send a strong message of leadership to the wider community, that the exploitation of migrant workers and the mistreatment of the LGBT+ community is not to be tolerated and overlooked for the sake of a sporting tournament, no matter its worldwide popularity.

The above letter’s signatories

Signed by

93% Club Edinburgh

Edinburgh University Arts & Heritage Society

PrideSoc – Edinburgh University LGBTQ+ Society

Edinburgh University Film Society

Edinburgh University Northern Society

Edinburgh University Geographical Society

Edinburgh University Classics Society

Edinburgh University Wind Band

Edinburgh University Ocean Advocates (Marine Conservation) Society

Edinburgh University Advocacy Society

Edinburgh University History Society

Edinburgh University Amnesty International Society

Edinburgh University Crafting and Sewing Society

Edinburgh University Fashion Society 

Edinburgh University LGBTQ+ Law Society

Edinburgh University Archaeology Society

Edinburgh University LGBT+ Medics Society

Edinburgh University Philosophy Society 

Edinburgh University Women in STEM Society

Edinburgh University Geoscience Society 

Edinburgh University Baking Society 

Edinburgh University Occult Society

Edinburgh University Mathematics Society

Edinburgh University Young Greens

Edinburgh University Photography Society

Edinburgh University Sign Language Society

Edinburgh University Makeup and SFX Society

Edinburgh Labour Students

Edinburgh Political Union

PublishEd

Racism Unmasked Edinburgh

Student Action for Refugees

The Student Newspaper

The Edi Magazine

Widening Participation Medics

The Noisy Movement

SE7EN Edinburgh

Sanitree

The Rattlecap

Tackling Elitism

Image credit: “Edinburgh University: McEwan Hall” by kaysgeog is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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