On 2nd December 2010, following on from Qatar’s successful hosting of the Asian Games in 2006, it was announced that Qatar would be the first Arab state to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 (the “Competition”). From 21st November to 18th December 2022, Qatar will welcome through its borders 32 teams to participate in the Competition, and hundreds of thousands of fans and spectators will arrive, many visiting Qatar for the first time.
After the Olympics the World Cup is the most watched sporting event across the globe, bringing with it an incredible amount of exposure. Unquestionably, major sporting events such as the World Cup, present a large array of legal issues that must be considered by the hosting country. Since the announcement, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (“Supreme Committee”) has worked hard with stakeholders in preparation for the World Cup, including developing a sporting event legislative framework necessary to support the facilitation and hosting of the Competition, and providing the ground work for future major sporting events.
As sole counsel, Al-Ansari & Associates have been integral to the process of developing such legislation, and we are pleased to confirm that on 29 July 2021, his Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani enacted Law No. 10 of 2021 regarding the Measures for Hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (the “Enabling Law”). The enactment of the Enabling Law is a significant milestone in Qatar’s preparations for hosting the Competition, through which Qatar seeks to ensure that key stakeholders’ commercial interests are protected, and to ensure that Qatar’s numerous commitments in its bid for the Competition are honored.
The Enabling Law is the cornerstone of the operational set-up for the Competition as it implements the commitments made by the State of Qatar in the Government Guarantees and Hosting Agreements, which each bidding nation executes as part of its bid book. In essence, the Government Guarantees and the Hosting Agreements govern the contractual relationship between FIFA as the owner of the Competition, and the State of Qatar as the hosting nation, and details the obligations of Qatar in relation to key hosting areas. These areas include but are not limited to commercial rights; safety and security; immigration; taxes; and other intellectual property rights.
Pursuant to these obligations and consistent with prior hosting nations, it was necessary for Qatar to issue legislation that enables it to perform its obligations, some of which contradict with, or are not expressly covered by, existing laws and regulations. While Al-Ansari & Associates have been engaged in the analysis of Qatar’s commitments as with regard to existing laws and regulations, and working with the SC and other stakeholders to develop the Enabling Law as the overarching legislation, work continues with regard to the supporting regulations, decisions and circulars, which will provide greater detail to relevant parties on the procedures required to give effect to the issues covered in the Enabling Law.
Below we share an analysis of a number of the key provisions in the Enabling Law.
The Enabling Law comprises of ten chapters covering the following key areas:
* Chapter one: Definitions and general provisions
* Chapter two: Procedures of entry, exit and work in the state
* Chapter three: Exemptions
* Chapter four: Safety and security
* Chapter five: Bank and foreign currency operations
* Chapter six: FIFA rights
* Chapter seven: Broadcasting and advertisement
* Chapter eight: Transportation
* Chapter nine: Volunteers
* Chapter ten: Penalties and final provisions
The provisions of the Enabling Law are to be applied for the purpose of holding activities to host the Competition but is not to exceed the “Competition Period” which is defined to be the period commencing ten (10) days prior to the first match in the Competition and ending five (5) days after the last match in the Competition.
The Law regulates the key operational aspects of the Competition and provides competent authorities with the power to issue further ministerial and internal decisions that will help implement the key obligations stipulated in the Enabling Law. As mentioned above, work continues on a number of those decisions.
Immigration and Labour
A significant number of people are expected to come to Qatar for employment as a consequence of the Competition. The Enabling Law seeks to regulate immigration and labour related issues concerning entry to Qatar in connection with the Events around the Competition.
Pursuant to the Enabling Law, Qatar shall issue entry permits without any restrictions or discrimination. The only distinction afforded is in relation to processing time for issuance of entry permits which differs among the categories of entities including FIFA, companies associated with the operations of the Competition, volunteers and fans. The entry permits issued pursuant to the Enabling Law expire at the end of the Competition Period being five days after the last match in the Competition.
Notably the Enabling Law provides certain employees in certain entities including FIFA and companies associated with the operations of the Competition an exemption from obtaining a work permit, which is currently applicable for any foreign national entering Qatar to work. This is intended to facilitate the entry of thousands of employees working with, or for the key entities responsible for, carrying out activities related to the operation of the Competition.
Further, the law provides FIFA and other specified entities with an exemption from the provisions of any labour regulations currently in effect in the State of Qatar, including the Labour Law No 14 of 2004 and Qatar Financial Center Employment regulations, and other laws and regulations if applicable and instead refers to the provisions of their employment agreement to regulate the relationship between the parties, including working hours, renumeration and termination.
The Enabling Law refers to the Security Committee as the entity responsible for issuing the necessary entry permits. The Security Committee is the entity in charge of the security elements of the Competition which was formed by Decision No. (2) of 2011 of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Supreme Committee and is chaired by his excellency the Prime Minster of the State of Qatar and Minister of Interior.
In accordance with the Government Guarantees issued by Qatar in its bid, the Enabling Law addresses a number of key exemptions afforded to FIFA and other specified entities, including an exemption from the payment of certain fees relating to their operations in Qatar, and exemptions from applicable taxes and customs, all as stipulated in the Government Guarantees. Specific decisions regarding the procedural elements of these exemptions are expected to be issued.
Safety and Security
Ensuring a safe and secure event is of significant importance to Qatar as the host nation and to FIFA as the owner of the event. Attention has been given in the Enabling Law to providing the Security Committee with the necessary power to operate the security elements of the Competition. In this regard, the Chairman of the Security Committee has the power to issue necessary instruction and guidelines in relation to security procedures to ensure the safety and security of the delivery of the Competition. Furthermore, the Enabling Law affords the Chairman of the Security Committee the power to decide how certain acts committed during or by virtue the Competition, which may be in violation of existing laws and regulations, are to be treated. The Enabling Law provides that the Chairman may publish instructions in relation to these matters in the media in order to ensure adequate public awareness of the same.
Banking and Foreign Currency Operations
The Enabling Law stipulates that no restrictions shall be imposed on the purchasing and selling of the State’s and foreign currencies during the Competition Period. This includes the entry and exit of currencies to the State of Qatar which currently applies limits which are set to a certain declared amount, and no restriction on the amount of currency exchanged during the Competition Period, specifically as it relates to US Dollars, Euros and Swiss Francs. This is intended to facilitate the exchange of different currencies by all visitors to the State of Qatar during the Competition Period. As regulator, the Qatar Central Bank has the power implement these exemptions prior to the beginning of the Competition Period if needed. Further, the banking authorities of the State are required to organize simple and efficient banking processes during the Competition Period.
FIFA Commercial Rights
In any major sporting event, the financial investment of sponsors is crucial to the event’s success forming the basis of licensing and merchandising agreements that earn revenues to support the development of the sport. As such the Enabling Law seeks to regulate FIFA’s commercial rights relevant to the Competition. FIFA Intellectual Property Rights cover a wide variety of rights including: the name and logo; slogan and anthem of FIFA; official titles and names designating the Competition; mascot; logos; billboards; identification symbols; designs and slogans; trophies and medals; and artistic and musical works. While these rights are generally protected under existing intellectual property legislation in Qatar, the Enabling Law specifically provides a non-comprehensive list of what might be deemed “FIFA Intellectual Property” and the commercial rights FIFA enjoys as they relate to the Competition, and moreover details the prohibition without authorization by FIFA of the use, registration, imitation, reproduction or modification of such intellectual property.
Should FIFA become aware of any potential infringement of its IP rights at Event Locations, it may notify Supreme committee, which will in turn notify the Competent Authorities to take action in order to ensure that the IP rights are protected. The Enabling Law stipulates penalties which are notably more severe than what would be imposed by existing IP laws in Qatar.
There are various sources of unfair competition that the Enabling Law seeks to specifically expand upon from that which currently exists under Qatar law, including in connection with misleading consumers regarding services or products being endorsed by FIFA or the Supreme Committee; and holding fan events, using tickets for the purpose of advertisement and hosting public viewing events – all without the prior approval of FIFA. Hotels or tourism service providers are not permitted to offer ticket(s) with their packages without the approval of FIFA. Violation of these provisions carries fines of up to QAR 500,000 or imprisonment for up to a year.
The issuance and sale of tickets to the Competition is strictly an exclusive right afforded to FIFA. Pursuant to that right, the Enabling Law prohibits the issuance, sale, resale, redistribution and trade in tickets without FIFA’s authorization. This is a key provision given that existing laws in Qatar do not criminalize the resale or trade of tickets for sporting events and therefore it addresses the existing legislative gap by criminalizing theses key acts which negatively affects sporting tournaments of this scale. Further, FIFA being the holder of the exclusive rights in relation to tickets is also afforded an exemption from the prior approval required to process the personal data of nationals and residents of the State of Qatar who purchase tickets.
A vast array of expertise is required to bring a sporting event the size of the World Cup to life. The Law affords FIFA and other specific entities responsible for delivering aspects of the Competition with the right to establish a presence in the State of Qatar under an applicable regime with 100% foreign capital. While this is consistent with existing laws, the exemption afforded is limited to activities related to the Competition and the presence of such companies is to expire upon the laps of ninety (90) days after the end of the Competition Period, unless those companies have sought to change their status or in case the Council of Ministers extends the said period based on a request from the Supreme Committee. The Enabling Law also affords those entities with a simple expedited liquidation process. It is expected that further decisions to be issued detailing the procedures relating to these matters.
Commercial Restriction Area
To further support the financial investment made by sponsors of the Competition and also in line with the commitments made by Qatar in the Government Guarantees, the Enabling Law creates a “Commercial Restriction Area” which is the area adjacent to the Stadium or any of the Events Location which is determined by FIFA with a radius that does not exceed 2 kilometers, including the airspace above, and calculated from the middle of the Stadium or Events Location. It is prohibited to exercise any commercial or other activities on match day and the day preceding it in that area. The right to sell in the Commercial Restriction Area is afforded FIFA or its delegate. An exception has been provided to existing businesses that fall in its radius in order to be allowed to continue its operations in accordance with the specific rules and instructions issued by FIFA.
A commercial restriction area was implemented on a smaller scale in previous tournaments in Qatar, most recently the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™ whereby existing businesses that were within the 2 kilometers radius of Khalifa Stadium were required to sell their products without specific branding on them on match days in order to not infringe on the tournament’s sponsor’s rights. It is expected that detailed procedures for exiting business operating in any of the Commercial Restriction Areas during the Competition Period are issued to ensure compliance and public awareness.
Given the value of advertisements to the overall success of the Competition, the Enabling Law seeks to specifically regulate FIFA advertisements during the Competition Period. It is prohibited to advertise or promote in any other method in the Events Location or the Commercial Restriction Area during the Competition Period and the period starting two days prior to the date of the preliminary or final draw ceremonies until the day following the end of the draw ceremonies unless authorized by FIFA or its delegate.
Notably, FIFA advertisement will be exempted from the provisions of the Arabic Protection Law No. (7) of 2019 regarding the protection of the Arabic language and Law No. (1) of 2021 regarding the Regulation and Control of the Placement of the Advertising. In this regard, FIFA will not be required to apply for permit from the relevant municipality where the advertisement is intended to be placed. Instead, FIFA will submit an application to the Supreme Committee which is the designated entity responsible for approving FIFA advertisement. Further, pursuant to this exemption, FIFA will only be required to place advertisements in the English language, and not both English and Arabic.
Volunteers have the potential to contribute to not only the economic, but the social value, of a major sporting event. Existing laws in the State of Qatar do not specifically regulate the work of volunteers. The Enabling Law incorporates a chapter that addresses the use of volunteers in the Competition. In this regard, the Enabling Law allows FIFA and the Supreme Committee to use volunteers without the need to obtain a work permit. Foreign volunteers will be issued entry permits for either one or multiple entries which is set to expire at the end of the Competition Period. Volunteers are also exempted from any application of taxes associated with their volunteering activities.
The Enabling Law stipulates severe penalties for certain offenses committed in violation of the law. As discussed above, the law introduces a new offense which has not been regulated by existing laws in relation to the sale, resale and distribution of tickets without FIFA approval. Further, Pursuant to Article (40) the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee has the power to reconcile with the perpetrators of any offenses stipulated in the Law including offenses in relation to tickets, provided that the monetary fines listed in the reconciliation table are paid. According to the reconciliation table annexed to the Law, offenses in relation to tickets carry a monetary fine that is uniquely linked to the number of tickets subject to a single offense. Therefore, if an individual resells, without FIFA’s permission, more than one ticket, the monetary fine required to be paid in order to reconcile is three times the values of each ticket. Alternatively, if the number of tickets exceeds eleven tickets, the monetary fine is five times the value of each ticket. Further, the fines are doubled in case the perpetrator is a legal person.
It is also important to note that the person responsible for actual management of the violating legal person shall be punished with the same penalty if it is was proven that he was aware of the violation, or if his breach of the duties contributed to the commission of crime. The Enabling Law also stated that the legal person shall be jointly liable to pay the ordered fines and compensations if the violation was committed by one of its employees or on its behalf or for its interest.
Benefits to Fans
Fans coming to the competition will be afforded a number of benefits, including (subject to health and security reasons) easy entry procedures to the State of Qatar , free public transportation on match days and access to emergency medical treatment in the Competition Period.
While it’s not clear how the current global pandemic in relation to Covid-19 will affect the operations of the Competition, the Enabling Law takes into account the potential effect it may have by referencing the State of Qatar’s right to reject or revoke an entry permit for health-related reasons.
Should you have any questions regarding the Enabling Law, please do feel free to contact us.
Salman Al-Ansari Sonia Barber Khadeja Al-Zarraa
Partner Senior Of Counsel Senior Associate
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About Al-Ansari & Associates
Al-Ansari & Associates is a leading law firm based in Doha, the State of Qatar. Being the fastest growing firm in the State of Qatar, we are proud to have supported both local and international clients with multi jurisdictional qualified lawyers. The firm’s practice is focused on core areas such as corporate and commercial, Banking and Finance, regulatory and compliance, Labour and Employment, TMT, Intellectual Property and Copyright, Real Estate and Contraction, Energy and Natural Resources, Transport and Infrastructure and Dispute Resolution. Al-Ansari & Associates provides its clients legal expertise with international standards.