Gary Neville insists he doesn’t feel conflicted over his role in Qatar and took aim at Prince William over his hypocritical views on the World Cup.
Neville has been heavily criticised for working for Qatari-funded broadcaster BeIN Sports, but he believes Qatar has the right to host the World Cup despite the country’s shocking human rights record and will take the criticism on the chin.
“I don’t feel conflicted. I’ve been coming over to the Middle East for 20 years and to south-east Asia. I’ve had business and commercial relationships with these parts for a long, long time,” Neville said on ITV.
“The fact FIFA has awarded a World Cup has come under intense scrutiny, I accept that position, I’m there to be shot at and people have criticised me heavily.
“People have criticised our colleagues on the BBC for coming over here but the reality of it is, my view on it quite simply is I detest human rights abuses, I hate the idea of not paying people enough money, people working in poor conditions, the idea of people not having good living conditions.
“The fact that women’s rights aren’t adhered to and human rights abuses [happen], I can’t stand it. I also have relationships in this part of the world and have done for many years. Those relationships are long standing, long standing in the UK, if you think we buy most of our energy from the Middle East, they own our banks, the royal family both have relationships sporting and charitable.
“If you think that our government, our political parties have relationships with the Middle East – they own Heathrow Airport, the stock exchange. The fact is, football has brought scrutiny and football tournaments have brought scrutiny on this part of the world and the challenges that exist in this part of the world and these things happen. I’m happy for football to front that up.”
Neville then had a go at Prince William, who has decided not to go to Qatar as president of the Football Association, while his father, King Charles, takes £2.6m in charitable donations from a senior Qatar politician.
“If Prince William doesn’t want to come to this tournament but he’s okay with his father taking charitable donations – that’s fine. If the MPs don’t want to come over but are happy to take money from them in our country for their political parties that’s fine with me, but I see it as footballers and ex-footballers coming under criticism,” Neville added.
“In my point of view, football should stand up, footballers should stand up, there’s another issue with the OneLove armband, the political and social issues that I’m delighted to talk about – there’s a conversation to be had because my point always is, should there be a World Cup in all parts of the world? Should there be a World Cup in the Middle East? Should there be a World Cup in Arab countries? There almost definitely should be.
“If we’re going to do that, we’re going to come across some countries in these parts of the world but can we not enjoy a sporting tournament and come over and challenge the system over here but bring football to different parts of the world, try and advance things.
“I will continue coming to this part of the world and continue to keep going to south east Asia. Things like our energy sector, our airforce, our banks, our political parties, they seem to want to shy away from their relationships with this part of the world but football will get scrutiny and be the one penalised.”