Last week, the satirical British quiz show Have I Got News for You turned its focus to the soccer World Cup taking place in Qatar from November 20. At one point, panelist and longtime Private Eye editor Ian Hislop attempted to demonstrate the difficulty in commentating on a match in a country that has such a stunningly bad reputation. “And it’s the kickoff here in this appalling country with a terrible human-rights record,” he muttered. “Honestly the amount of immigrant workers who have died, it’s a shocker … Ooh, it’s a goal!”

Just to compound things, this commentary was directed at the episode’s guest host, former player Gary Neville, a man who is going to be paid by the Qatari state-run media to commentate on matches during the competition. It was a brief exchange, but a perfect illustration of how the tournament looks set to be swallowed whole by controversy.

With every passing day, some new scrap of information about Qatari-government villainy leaks out. Last week, reports emerged that Qatar was giving free tickets and accommodations (as well as a daily stipend) to selected fans willing to effectively work as its “spies.” Those who accepted the arrangement were reported to have signed a document reading, “You agree to report any offensive, degrading or abusive comments [about Qatar] to the SC,” referring to a sinister-sounding organization known as “the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.” Another line states, “It would obviously not be appropriate for you to disparage Qatar.” Representatives from the Supreme Committee have tried to play down the deal, alleging, “There is no obligation to promote or do anything.”

Armchair critics.

The espionage doesn’t stop there. Last week, an investigation by The Sunday Times of London found that Qatar had links to a group of Indian hackers who had obtained e-mail data for several high-profile, U.K.-based World Cup critics, a claim that Qatar denies. Then there is the country’s terrible L.G.B.T.Q.-rights record (homosexuality is illegal there; something former Qatari player Khalid Salman puts down to “damage in the mind” of gay people) and the inhumane treatment of its immigrant workers (who have had their passports withheld, toiled away for up to 18 hours a day, and died in the thousands) to contend with.

On top of that, had Qatar held the World Cup during its traditional summer window, there is a good chance that the country’s 105-degree heat would have cooked players alive. Instead, every soccer calendar around the world has shifted to accommodate a November World Cup, which will still be held in less-than-ideal temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Everyone who accepted the arrangement signed a document reading, “You agree to report any offensive, degrading or abusive comments [about Qatar].”

All in all, Qatar’s appointment makes no sense whatsoever. So why did it happen? To answer that head-scratcher, we need to turn to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s worldwide governing body and an organization that has never been very good at convincing people it isn’t entirely corrupt.

Although Qatar has denied any wrongdoing, there have been several well-sourced claims that the country pushed unimaginable amounts of money at FIFA officials to influence their vote. Three weeks before the vote, it was alleged that Al Jazeera, the Qatari state-run television network that hired Neville as a commentator, had agreed to a $400 million rights deal with FIFA, plus a $100 million bonus, should Qatar secure the World Cup. Many of the key FIFA figures involved in the vote have subsequently been banned from the game for life. However, such is the scale of Qatar’s abuses that even Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president who left in shame during the corruption crisis, doesn’t think the competition should be held there anymore.

The noise these scandals have created is now so loud that Qatar has gone into full-on damage-limitation mode. Its government has accused the rest of the world of racism, for not being thrilled on its behalf that it gets to host the tournament. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, the country’s foreign minister (and increasingly hapless-looking chief of propaganda) recently gave an extraordinary interview where he attempted to charm away accusations of gay-rights abuses by politely pointing out that the country can’t possibly be homophobic because it also bans public displays of affection between heterosexual people.

A 6,000-cabin fan village built in an isolated lot in Doha, Qatar, for the upcoming World Cup.

Most notably there is the case of David Beckham, a former player as close as modern soccer gets to being a one-man brand. He is currently being touted across the globe as the “face” of the competition, working his little socks off to convince us all that Qatar is actually just a misunderstood wonderland. In one promotional video for the tournament, he says of a trip to the country, “This will go down as one of my favorite mornings,” and later in the clip, “This is perfection.” It’s worth pointing out that Qatar is reported to have paid him millions for the honor. In the words of The Guardian’s Barney Ronay, “Every man has his price. Beckham is at least pretty specific about his.”

But this isn’t enough. A caginess surrounds the World Cup this year, with teams and governments unsure of exactly how to proceed with things. A handful of clubs in Norway campaigned to have the national team boycott the World Cup, but Norway’s Football Federation rejected the idea. In Paris, there will be no big-screen public broadcasts of matches, thanks in part to a campaign by legendary national hero and former player Eric Cantona.

In solidarity with migrant workers, some German pubs have decided against screening the matches. The captains from a handful of teams (including England’s) plan to play wearing “OneLove” armbands that quietly protest against Qatar’s L.G.B.T.Q. stance.

But we’ve heard all this before. When London hosted the Olympics a decade ago, there was an uproar about the government’s insistence on placing ground-to-air-missile launchers on residential homes around the Olympic Village, but the noises were drowned out for good the second “the Queen” leapt out of a helicopter during the opening ceremony.

And while there were similar concerns when Vladimir Putin’s Russia hosted the World Cup, in 2018, the wave of celebration as the tournament began conveniently washed them all away. This sort of thing tends to happen during big sporting events. At a certain point, the sport overtakes the abuses. In other words, we are all about to watch Qatar get away with it.

Still, at least there is positive news on the horizon. Once the Qatar World Cup is over, attention will turn to the host of the 2026 games, a country untroubled by violence or corruption or any form of political division whatsoever. That’s right—they’re going to be held in America. What could possibly go wrong?

Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL and the author of Bedtime Stories for Worried Liberals