Fox’s World Cup coverage plans to stay away from Qatar’s many controversies

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NEW YORK – Qatar’s hosting of this year’s Men’s World Cup has sparked controversy since the day 12 years ago FIFA awarded its showcase to a Middle Eastern nation for the first time .

Indeed, the clamor began even before that, with allegations – including the United States Department of Justice – that Qatar bribed FIFA officials to obtain the hosting rights.

Then came years of claims that migrant workers had been mistreated in the construction of lavish hotels and stadiums, and the transport infrastructure to connect them. A report by the English Guardian newspaper in February 2021 claimed that more than 6,500 migrant workers died since the allocation of accommodation. Last month, the Denmark national team and its uniform supplier created blank shirts for the tournament in protest.

Now, with millions of fans set to descend on a country the size of Connecticut, new questions arise.

Will women have carte blanche in a country where some hotels prohibit women from booking their own room? Will LGBTQ+ fans be allowed to be themselves in a nation where homosexuality is illegal? How will a Western norm of rowdy fan behavior be treated in a nation where alcohol is strictly limited?

You might not hear much of any of this during Fox Sports’ coverage of the tournament, which runs from November 20 to December 20. 18.

» READ MORE: FIFA opens compensation fund for migrant workers in Qatar

At a Fox event in Manhattan on Thursday, controversies were not raised during the network’s official presentation. The closest person was the game’s senior analyst Stu Holden, who said having “all the fans from all the different countries in one place – it could create some wonderful moments, it could also create chaos”.

But there was plenty of time around the presentation to ask the broadcasters and executives questions, and they were ready to talk.

“Our approach is clear and the same as it was four years ago in Russia,” executive producer David Neal told The Inquirer. “We believe viewers come to Fox Sports during the World Cup to see the biggest sporting event in the world. They don’t come to us expecting us to be [HBO’s] Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Where [ESPN’s] W: 60. It’s not what we claim to be, and I don’t think it’s what viewers expect.

However, many viewers may disagree with this, Neal is not new to this. Qatar will be at their fourth World Cup with Fox, following the women’s tournaments in 2015 and 2019 and the men’s tournament in 2018. Before joining Fox in 2012, he was at Univision, and before that he spent more than 30 years at NBC – including producing nine Olympic Games.

So he knows the balance between on-field and off-field issues at an international sporting event. And he knows Fox’s coverage won’t be like NBC’s Beijing Winter Olympics coverage earlier this year, where host Mike Tirico and numerous guests spoke openly about alleged human rights abuses. man in China.

“If a story affects the playing field, if it affects competition in the tournament, we will cover it fully,” Neal said. “If it’s not, if it’s incidental to the tournament, if it has to do with building the venues or anything else, we’ll leave that to other entities. We are fully focused on the 64 game tournament.

READ MORE: NBC Olympics host Mike Tirico was happy to be able to freely call out China on air at the Olympics

Fox will have three newsgathering crews available to send to the stages. With network studios expected to be next to the FIFA fan zone, there should be plenty of footage to capture.

And if more than just football news hits the stadiums, Neal said Fox won’t stay away.

“We don’t hijack our collective view of something if it’s happening inside” a room, Neal said. “If there is a demonstration or something inside the stadium, it would not be possible to ignore it. … We will read and react.

Neal also said his broadcasters will “absolutely” have free rein to talk about issues if they want to raise them. The studio’s lead animator, Rob Stone, vouched for this.

“I think our number one responsibility is to the spectator and to the sport and to what the event is about,” Stone said. “And if any events come to light that need to be discussed, absolutely, we’re not going to hesitate.”

READ MORE: Carli Lloyd, Maurice Edu and JP Dellacamera to join Fox’s World Cup broadcast team

The question is what if and need will mean.

“We are guests in this country – at some point you have to be respectful of how they operate and how they do things,” Stone said. “And also take them at their word for what they said they were going to do wise change and continue to encourage that in the best way possible. … Some of those other issues we don’t ignore, but the focus will always be on the game.”

He noted that there were still many production meetings before the tone of Fox’s coverage was officially set. But for now, the direction seems clear.

“We won’t hide issues if they become widespread and apparent,” said Stone, who will host his fourth World Cup for Fox after covering four for ESPN. “But right now, again – and I know this sounds like an old song over and over again – we’re here to honor the sport and honor those players.”

Fans might not like the way Stone and Neal answered questions, but there’s no doubt that they answered them.

“Our mission, and our philosophy, is to cover the tournament,” Neal said. “We think we have more than enough on our plate to cover the tournament. If others want to cover these side stories, they are free to do so.

READ MORE: Philadelphia 2026 Men’s World Cup organizers predict scale of world hosting

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