An executive with Fox Corporation says the broadcast network will not go out of its way to cover controversies involving this year’s host country of the World Cup tournament.
This week, Fox’s executive producer for World Cup coverage David Neal said controversies surrounding Qatar’s use of migrant workers, environmental impacts and the country’s laws that criminalize LGBTQ behaviors.
“Our stance is if it affects what happens on the field of play, we will cover it and cover it fully — but if it does not, if it is ancillary to the story of the tournament, there are plenty of other entities and outlets that are going to cover that,” Neal told Fox employees at an event on Thursday.
Neal said he believes viewers tuning into Fox and its sister cable networks want to see the games, not news reports about Qatar’s policies.
“We firmly believe the viewers come to us to see what happens on the field, on the pitch,” Neal affirmed.
The position is one Fox took several years ago when it agreed to pay around $1 billion to secure the rights to the World Cup tournament held in Russia. The same payment will apply to World Cup matches played in Qatar next month.
Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the 2022 World Cup, said fans coming into Qatar should not have to worry about “persecution of any sort,” despite the country’s strict laws that prohibit homosexuality, drinking and loud noises. Al Khater posited Qatar as a “tolerant” country that was welcoming of all individuals, though some have already found Qatar to be a different environment to work than they are used to.
On Wednesday, Fox Sports analyst Chad Ochocinco Johnson said he was reprimanded by officials when he showed a “display of affection” after deboarding a plane in the country’s capital Doha.
“Had no idea it was frowned upon,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “People had me nervous like I was going to jail.”
Some soccer players are also speaking out about conditions in Qatar and have urged World Cup officials to consider a country’s laws when picking a host for future events.
Josh Cavallo, an openly-gay soccer player from Australia, said he would be scared to play in matches held in Qatar because of the country’s strict laws that are rooted in religion.
“I vow to stand up for the LGBTQ athletes and the fans at the World Cup in Qatar, who can’t live openly, authentically,” Cavallo said this week. “I urge sport leaders to consider our rights, our safety while choosing host countries for World Cups and other competitions. We must do better.”
Fox will air a total of 35 World Cup matches starting November 21. Some matches scheduled on Sundays will air on Fox Sports 1 due to National Football League telecasts airing on Fox. The tournament ends December 18.