Gary Neville was asked about his decision to work for state-owned broadcaster beIN Sports at the Qatar World Cup during an awkward segment on Friday’s episode of Have I Got News For You.
The former Manchester United full-back has received widespread criticism for accepting an offer to commentate for Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN Sports at this winter’s tournament.
Last month, he vowed vowed to highlight human rights issues while working for the company, saying: “Yes I’m going to the World Cup and yes working for ITV and Bein. I will highlight those issues like I have for years!”
But on this week’s episode of Have I Got News For You – a show Neville was hosting for the first time – panelists Ian Hislop and others grilled the former England international on the decision. You can see the clip below.
Here’s how the conversation went down in full:
Paul Merton: “You know David Beckham, don’t you? He’s going, isn’t he? How much is he being paid?”
Neville: “I don’t know. More than me!”
Neville turned to Ian Hislop, a long-time panellist on the show, and asked if “it’s coming home?”
Hislop, who felt other panellists had been ‘very gentle’ with Neville, replied: “What, your reputation?” before adding: “The elephant in the room is you’re commentating there. What’s the defence?”
Neville hit back, saying: “Yeah, I’m commentating.”
The former Manchester United defender added: “Well, you’ve got a choice, haven’t you? My view always has been that you either highlight the issues and challenges in these countries and speak about them, or you basically don’t say anything and stay back home and don’t go. And I think we should challenge them.”
Hislop replied: “There’s another option. You stay at home and highlight the abuses. You don’t have to go and take the Qatari’s money. I am not trying to be tartan but it’s not a very good defence.”
Throughout the build-up to this winter’s tournament, Qatar have been heavily scrutinised over their attitude towards women and people within the LGBTQ+ community.
Many human rights groups have also raised concerns over the country’s treatment of migrant workers.
Speaking to Sportsmail last month, Neville highlighted that countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have worse human rights records.
He said: “We are talking about Man City like it’s a golden ticket – they’re owned by Abu Dhabi, who have massive issues with women’s rights, worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights… exactly the same, in fact, worse, than Qatar.
“Qatar have had Amnesty International and the International Labour Organisation all over them for the last 10 years because of the World Cup.”
Neville added: “There’s no one that I think wants workers’ rights to be better than me, there’s no one who wants women’s rights, equality or diversity more than me, I absolutely believe in it.”
The 47-year-old also vowed to speak out on the above-mentioned issues during the World Cup.
He said: “When I highlight these issues, I can do so from a position whereby if I am covering eight games on beIN in a World Cup, and those issues come up or there’s an incident outside the stadium, I will highlight them, as I will on ITV, as I will on my own channels. I will never shy away from it.
“The way construction workers and hospitality workers get treated in Qatar is not good enough and it is not right at all. So for me, I can understand where the criticism comes from because I put myself out there and to be fair try to defend people’s rights in this country all the time and I’ll continue to do that through football in different countries as well.
“It does not bother me in any way shape or form because I feel I’ve got quite a consistent and strong position on it.”
Neville also defended his former teammate, David Beckham, who accepted a reported £10 million deal to become an ambassador for the World Cup.
He said: “Beckham went to play for PSG who had Qatari ownership.
“Beckham to be fair to him has a relationship with the Qataris through his relationship with PSG, and the work he has done in terms of amplifying our country through the world is probably second to none in the past five to 10 years.”
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