Assessing FIFA’s Progress Since the Ruggie Report

In October, the international football governing association FIFA released a report entitled FIFA 2.0: Vision for the Future. It has now been more than six months since Professor John Ruggie issued a report for FIFA, in which he recommended six overarching steps the organization should take as part of its obligations under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. But it is not clear from the FIFA 2.0 report — or from other public statements — whether FIFA has made meaningful progress toward any of Ruggie’s recommendations: 


1)  Adopt a clear and coherent human rights policy.
This is the simplest recommendation for FIFA to implement, since it requires only the drafting, approval, and publication of a written policy. In his report, Professor Ruggie described this as the “first step” for the organization. More than six months on, there have been no announcements regarding such a policy. 

2) Embed respect for human rights.
In the press release accompanying its new report, FIFA claims that it “has made senior-level appointments to key positions related to reform goals, and addressed governance and financial issues” in five major areas of concern, including the host-country bidding process. FIFA should more proactively publicize these new human rights-related appointments, and should make these individuals available for public comment and engagement. FIFA 2.0 also notes that “to ensure that FIFA’s showcase competition works to positively impact the region, FIFA in 2016 created an advisory board – featuring independent members – to monitor the systems in place ensuring decent working conditions. Progressing with haste, this new body will include individuals from relevant sectors of civil society and other FIFA stakeholders to oversee all FIFA competitions.” FIFA should clarify the exact status and composition of the advisory board as soon as possible.

3) Identify and evaluate human rights risks.
FIFA 2.0 claims that “the organisation continually reviews its policies and processes, as well as its organisational and event management systems, to ensure that human rights risks are appropriately addressed in relation to FIFA’s activities. Furthermore, FIFA engages continuously with a broad range of stakeholders to find the best ways of addressing human rights risks related to its programmes and tournaments.” The report includes no details, however, on FIFA’s findings related to these risks, or on new due diligence procedures that may be in place. 

4) Address human rights risks.
This is perhaps the most difficult and ambitious of Professor Ruggie’s recommendations, since proactively addressing human rights risks must be preceded by meaningful action on policies and procedures. FIFA should make concrete commitments — as it has done with respect to doubling the number of female football players globally — with regard to human rights in its tournaments’ supply chains. For example, while FIFA has committed to reconsidering ”the current FIFA World Cup bidding process and recommend[ing] concrete changes… to ensure an efficient, and transparent competition featuring sound technical analyses,” the organization should clarify whether its working group on Local Organising Committees (LOCs) plans to consider human rights records in evaluating future bids, in accordance with Professor Ruggie’s main sub-recommendation related to tracking and implementation.  

5) Track and report on implementation.
The FIFA 2.0 report is the first major statement or report from the organization on the issue of human rights since the publication of Professor Ruggie’s paper in April. But neither the report nor any other statement delves into specifics on progress in the implementation of Ruggie’s recommendations or on human rights-related findings. 

6) Enable Access to Remedy.
Effective access to remedy can only be provided once an organization identifies and addresses risks inherent to its operations. The word “remedy” does not appear in FIFA’s 69-page report.


In the press release accompanying its new report, FIFA President Gianni Infantino acknowledged that “The breadth and impact of FIFA’s global operations creates a duty to preserve the inherent dignity and equal rights of each and every individual affected by FIFA’s activities.” He also noted that “FIFA will convene a gathering of all relevant stakeholders in 2017 to discuss the important matters of human rights and gender equality and the role that FIFA will play in the preservation of these basic rights.”

The international human rights community looks forward to FIFA’s 2017 gathering. But we are less than two years away from kick-off at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and five years away from kick-off in Qatar. And in the coming months, FIFA will likely award 2026 tournament hosting rights. In light of these looming deadlines and increased public scrutiny and pressure, FIFA must resist the temptation to continue running down the clock on its responsibility to workers’ rights.