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Former Sky Sports Presenter Richard Keys Claims No One Has Died During World Cup Preparations In Qatar

29/05/2015 20:23 BST | Updated 29/05/2015 20:59 BST

Controversial TV presenter, Richard Keys, has denied that anyone has died during construction work ahead of Qatar's 2022 World Cup, despite figures suggesting that over a thousand labourers have been killed while building sporting venues.

The International Trade Union Confederation estimate that 1,200 workers have died while building infrastructure for the event, and estimate that a total of 4,000 will be killed before it takes place. That is 62 deaths for each game played.

A Guardian investigation last year revealed workers were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014.

But Mr Keys, a former Sky Sports presenter who now works for beIn Sports, a global network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by Qatari Sports Investments, has challenged the figures.

richard keys

Richard Keys denies any lives have been lost during the Qatar construction

On Twitter Mr Keys said he had "been doing some checking" and claimed there had been "no fatalities" - yet he was unable to provide further information about where he got his figures from.

In 2011, Mr Keys resigned as a Sky presenter after he made derogatory comments about female assistant referee Sian Massey.

Mr Keys was also challenged on Twitter over Qatar's gay rights record and was equally dismissive of criticism. He wrote: "I know, I live here."

Twitter users lambasted Mr Keys for his comments, as many challenged his "facts" and called him a "liar".

Earlier this week, five international footballers, including former Tottenham midfielder David Ginola, demanded Qatar abolish the labour system that allows migrant workers to be “held hostage on the world’s biggest building site” ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

The letter, organised by campaign group Avaaz, read: “Over one million workers, a majority of them immigrants from poor nations, are effectively held hostage on the world’s biggest building site which experts say could see 4,000 people dying even before the first ball is kicked.

"The name of this beautiful sport should not be sullied by the blood, sweat and tears of those who are building this spectacle. We call on FIFA, Qatar and all the construction firms profiting from this business to abolish this kafala system.”

A chart illustrating the body counts of workers involved in construction for the last four Olympics and two World Cups, and comparing them to the reported death toll for the 2022 Qatar World Cup has been released.

death toll

Graph shows the body counts of workers involved in construction for the last four Olympics and two World Cups

Play Fair Qatar states on its website: "By far the most appalling aspect of the Qatar’s treatment of its foreign construction workforce is the disregard for their safety.

"The Qatari government have – slowly – been forced to admit that upwards of 40 workers are dying every month, and there may be many more.

qatar world cup construction

Workers are seen at a construction site in Doha, on November 16, 2014

"Many die in falls, including being struck by falling objects, but the long hours and the harsh heat lead to hundreds dying from heart attacks.

"Based on figures from India and Nepal alone – and there are hundreds of thousands of workers from other countries – the International TUC has estimated that more than 4,000 people will die building the World Cup infrastructure. That’s more people than will play in the World Cup.

"In contrast, not one single person died building the London Olympics venues, and only two in building the supporting infrastructure.

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"Given that Qatar requires up to another million labourers to meet its World Cup plans, the number of deaths could be even higher – unless Qatar acts now to change the way workers are treated."

Guardian columnist, Marina Hyde, examined the increasing number of "slave deaths" during the construction work in the wealthy country.

She wrote: "Clearly there must be a magic number of slave deaths in the world’s richest country that would render the Qatar World Cup a moral and political no-no. But what is that number? What is the ballpark figure where deaths in the construction of ballparks become unacceptable?"

Writing about the estimated 62 lives that are expected to be lost for each game played, she said: "Perhaps players in every match could each wear 62 black armbands.

"Then again, that would probably contravene Fifa’s strict rules on what constitutes official kit, infringements of which it punishes ferociously. On infringements such as mass slave death, however, the evidence suggests it is more relaxed."

Ms Hyde also took to Twitter to challenge Mr Keys, pointing at the statistics from independent agencies who record the astonishingly high number of deaths predicted from the Qatar construction programme.

This latest controversy follows a week of football scandals.

A criminal investigation into Fifa senior officials is now underway after a number of high-ranking staff were charged with alleged corruption.

On Friday it was announced that Britain's Serious Fraud Office was actively assessing "material in its possession" relating to allegations of possible corruption at Fifa after British-based banks were allegedly used to transfer tens of millions of pounds as part of the conspiracy.

Those implicated include Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank.

Qatar World Cup 2022 Stadium Facilities