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Qatar World Cup pays for fans’ flights and hotels in return for pro-Qatar comments on social media

AMSTERDAM — The organizers of the World Cup in Qatar are paying for groups of soccer fans to travel to the tournament next month, saying on Monday they are asking them for positive comments on social media in return.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) confirmed the policy of inviting groups of supporters to the finals as guests after reports by Dutch public broadcaster NOS, who said on Sunday that Qatar was paying for flights and hotels for a group of 50 Dutch fans.

In return these supporters have had to sign a 'code of conduct', urging them to post favorable comments about the tournament on social media and to report "any offensive, degrading or abusive comments" by others to the SC, preferably with screenshots.

The broadcaster cited two Dutch fans who said they had been selected by the tournament's organizers as "Fan Leaders", and who added that they had been asked to pick a group of 50 loyal supporters for the free trip to Qatar.

"As the tournament nears, we have invited our most active fan leaders to personally nominate a small selection of fans to join us as our guests, as a manner of thanking them for their collaboration," a spokesperson for the SC told Reuters.

On its website, the Qatar World Cup describes its Fan Leaders program as a network of around 400 fans and influencers from 60 countries who have offered "insights, research, content creation and message amplification," for the tournament.

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The organizers did not say how many fans they had invited, or provide any financial details.

In its code of conduct, the SC asks the Fan Leaders to agree to incorporate its content in their social media posts and to support the World Cup by liking and re-sharing posts by third parties about the tournament.

It also stated that fans are not expected to be a "mouthpiece" for Qatar, but added it "would obviously not be appropriate to disparage Qatar, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy or the FIFA World Cup".

Belgian and French media have also reported that selected groups of fans from these countries were offered a free trip to the World Cup by Qatar.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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