Tourism officials in Qatar, site of the 2022 World Cup that kicks off later this month, are offering up a unique deal for some fans of soccer's quadrennial championship tournament.
And all it will cost those supporters is a few clicks on a keyboard.
Organizers of the event are promising to pay the airfare and hotel costs for some groups in exchange for positive public relations in the form of comments on social media sites, according to Reuters.
The tiny country is the first Middle East nation to host what is arguably the biggest global sporting event, a month-long celebration of the sport of soccer that will eventually determine which country owns the right to be called the greatest team in the world for the next four years.
Billions of people watch the tournament over four weeks. FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body and the official host of the tournament, estimated that as many as one billion people watched the 2018 World Cup championship match between France and Croatia, easily the most-viewed television program in history.
So, all eyes are on Qatar. But so are the eyes of scrutiny. Since being named the World Cup host a dozen years ago, Qatar has faced allegations of human rights violations, particularly in a scathing ESPN report in 2014 on the treatment and conditions of workers building the stadiums that will host the games.
With that backdrop and context, now the deal for free flights and lodging in exchange for positive reviews doesn't seem so unlikely.
According to Reuters, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) confirmed the policy of inviting some fans as officials guests of the country. It's a part of Qatar's buildup to the World Cup that has been going on for the last several years. The news about the freebies first broke in the Netherlands when public broadcaster NOS reported that a group of 50 Dutch fans were offered the deal. The arrangement is contingent upon each individual signing contract saying they will write favorable comments on social media and also report any unfavorable, offensive, or abusive comments about the country.
"As the tournament nears, we have invited our most active fan leaders to personally nominate a small selection of fans to join us as our guests, as a manner of thanking them for their collaboration," a spokesperson for the SC told Reuters.
It is unknown how many other fan groups were made the same offer or the total amount of the cost the government is paying. The Qatar World Cup site lists almost 400 clubs or groups as part of its "Fan Leaders" program associated with hosting the games in the Middle East.
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