ITV denies Gary Neville’s comparison of railway workers to Qatari migrant workers in World Cup coverage
Gary Neville sparked fury yesterday when he compared striking British workers to migrant workers in Qatar.
The football pundit launched the bizarre tirade during ITV’s coverage of the World Cup final, saying UK ministers are “demonizing” public sector workers.
He claimed the conditions faced by striking nurses and railway workers are similar to those faced by Qatar’s huge foreign workforce. The Gulf state has been criticized for allegedly exploitative employment practices and the number of deaths in construction projects.
Former Leveling Up secretary Simon Clarke said the comparison was “grotesque”, while ITV said it did not support Neville’s views. Neville, who played for Manchester United and England, made his comments in response to his colleague Roy Keane, who said the World Cup had been tainted with corruption.
Gary Neville railed against strikes and working conditions in the UK while working for ITV as a panelist ahead of the World Cup final
Neville said the government had ‘demonized railroad and ambulance workers and frightened nurses’
He claimed the conditions faced by striking nurses and railway workers are similar to those faced by Qatar’s huge foreign workforce
“We should abhor low wages, we should abhor poor living and working conditions,” said Neville, 47.
“We cannot accept that in this region or any other – and it is only worth noting that in our country we have a government that demonizes railroad workers, ambulances and, frighteningly, nurses.
“We cannot allow people to be paid an absolute pittance for work, we cannot have people in shelters that are unsavory and disgusting.
“That shouldn’t be happening here [in Qatar] … with the wealth that is available. But neither should it happen to the nurses in our country where our nurses have to fight for an extra pound or two.’
Neville’s comments caused a storm on social media yesterday.
Tory MP Clarke tweeted: “It is beyond ridiculous that he is being given a free hand by ITV Sport to openly politicize a major sporting event.
“Apart from the fact that every nurse gets a £1,400 raise, it’s grotesque to compare workers’ rights in Qatar to the UK.”
Neville’s colleague Roy Keane also argued the 2022 World Cup in Qatar had been “tainted”.
Former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said ITV should have cut Neville, who is a Labor Party member. He added: “All over Qatar people were being killed on construction sites and things and being paid starvation wages and he’s comparing that to the UK? It’s incredible.
“To compare a country that demonizes gay rights, executes and imprisons truckloads of migrant workers and pays them starvation wages, with a democratic country that has the concept of human rights, the rule of law and everything that goes with it – he has abused his position .’
Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield, said: “It’s a classic case of another sect socialist who has more money than sense. ITV should sack him.’
Activists have claimed that up to 6,500 migrant workers working on World Cup-related projects in Qatar have died.
Neville had already sparked controversy when he agreed to work for BeIN Sports – a network run by the state of Qatar. This is despite condemning the country’s treatment of migrant workers in a documentary titled Countdown to Qatar, which aired ahead of the tournament.
It’s not known how much Neville made from his deal with BeIN, but insiders estimated it could be in the six figures.
Theresa May’s former agent hit out at Gary Neville for his pre-game comments
Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, said: “Gary Neville – a paid apologist for Qatar – used his ITV home base to deliver an unchallenged partisan political speech and make insulting comparisons between Qatar and the UK on workers’ rights.
“The hypocrisy comes as no surprise but ITV’s failure to preempt it is unacceptable.”
Neville responded by saying, ‘Triggering all the right people.’
But he was squirming during an appearance on Have I Got New For You in November, where he was grilled over his decision to compete in the World Cup.
Neville, who was hosting the news program for the first time, was backed into a corner to defend his “reputation” when the topic arose that he was accepting money from a Qatari broadcaster.
‘You know David Beckham, don’t you? He’s leaving, isn’t he? How much is he paid?’ Panelist Paul Merton asked Neville.
“I don’t know,” came Neville’s embarrassed reply. ‘More than me!’
To try and regain control of the news agenda being discussed on the show, Neville reached out to Ian Hislop, a longtime panelist on the show, and asked if “it’s coming home?”.
“What, your reputation?” came the curt reply.
Private Eye editor Hislop said other panelists were “very soft” on Neville because he recklessly went after the ex-footballer to seek answers as to why exactly he accepted money from Qatar.
“The elephant in the room is that you comment there. What is the defense?’ asked Hislop.
“Yes, I’m commenting,” Neville said.
Ian Hislop (right) teased Gary Neville (left) about his decision to work as a commentator for state broadcaster beIN Sports during the World Cup in Qatar this month
There have been numerous protests by angry fans over human rights violations in Qatar
Qatar has been criticized for its treatment of workers building stadiums
“Well, you have a choice, don’t you? My view has always been that you either highlight the problems and challenges in these countries and talk about them, or you basically say nothing and stay at home and don’t go. And I think we should challenge them.”
That defense just didn’t sit well with Hislop, who was desperate to make a legitimate argument for his work with beIN Sports.
“The other possibility is that you stay home and highlight the abuses. They don’t have to take the Qataris’ money. It’s just not a very good defense.’
Neville was almost speechless as the live audience applauded.
“That’s…” he said before trailing off.
Neville’s appearance on the show was such an important issue being discussed in connection with the World Cup, including British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s request that members of Qatar’s LGBTQ+ community should “back down and compromise”.
“It’s amazing and it’s all about the money and you have mainline celebs over there getting huge checks,” said Richard Madeley, unfazed by Neville standing a few feet to his right. ‘You have people like Robbie [Williams] to go out and sing, which I have to say is very surprising given all the comments Robbie Williams has made about gay rights in the past.
“The fact that he goes out to sing is extraordinary. I don’t know what happened to the people. And it’s not just him the Black Eyed Peas are going, is it?’
In September he appeared alongside Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer at the party’s annual conference. He told delegates, “Now is the time to get behind Keir 100 percent.” He confirmed he had joined the party in January but ruled out running for Labor in the next election.
An ITV spokesman said: “Gary Neville gave his personal views on a live broadcast of a debate on the treatment of workers in Qatar.
“His views are his own and have not been endorsed by ITV.”
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/fifa-world-cup/article-11552275/ITV-disowns-Gary-Nevilles-comparison-rail-staff-Qatar-migrant-workers-World-Cup-coverage.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 ITV denies Gary Neville’s comparison of railway workers to Qatari migrant workers in World Cup coverage