As Qatar beefs up its sports profile by successfully winning hosting rights for a range of different international sporting events, it appears organizers have had to get creative to boost attendance at various matches and games.
According to a new report from the Associated Press, one method has been to “hire” construction workers and others pressed for cash to fill the stands.
Reporters for the news wire attended an international beach volleyball event last month with hundreds of men who had squeezed onto buses after being promised around QR20 ($5.50) for their participation.
More video of fake sports 'fans' in Qatar, migrant workers grappling to board bus for volleyball and promise of $8: http://t.co/RUsT7XxuJK
— John Leicester (@johnleicester) December 17, 2014
“They sit through volleyball, handball and football, applaud to order, do the wave with no enthusiasm and even dress up in white robes and head-scarves as Qataris, to plump up ‘home’ crowds…
Thirty riyals buys food for three days when you’re eating just once a day to save money for families back home, workers said. And watching sports, some said, is less tedious than whiling away off-duty hours in Doha’s back-of-beyond industrial zone.”
As news of paid sports fans in Qatar makes the rounds internationally, many have been asking if the nation might be putting the cart before the horse – and if leaders should be working first on inculcating a vibrant sports culture here, before pushing to host so many big events.
However, motivating fans hasn’t been easy.
According to a government survey conducted last year, two-thirds of Qatar residents hadn’t attended a football match here in the previous season. The main reasons included bad weather, awkward match times and traffic congestion.
But 69 percent of the more than 1,000 people surveyed also said that the presence of people paid to attend football matches made them reluctant to attend.
What do you think Qatar could do to boost (actual) fan attendance at games? Thoughts?