Gary Neville looked incredibly uncomfortable as he was grilled on his decision to “take the Qataris’ money” while hosting Have I Got News For You.
Neville, in the HIGNFY hotseat for the first time, was asked to defend his decision to work for state-owned broadcaster beIN Sports at the World Cup this winter.
Qatar’s human rights record has been heavily criticised in the lead up to the World Cup, particularly given their lack of answers over the deaths of thousands of migrant workers who built the stadiums.
Neville tried to justify his decision to work for beIN Sports by claiming he could better highlight the problems in the country on commentary.
“You know David Beckham, don’t you? He’s going, isn’t he? How much is he being paid?” panellist Paul Merton asked Neville.
“I don’t know,” Neville replied, already squirming. “More than me!”
In an attempt to move the discussion on, Neville turned to Ian Hislop, editor of the Private Eye and long-time panellist, and askied if “it’s coming home?”
“What, your reputation?” Hislop replied quickly. “The elephant in the room is you’re commentating there. What’s the defence?”
“Yeah, I’m commentating,” Neville said. “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.”
But Hislop refused to back down, insisting: “The other option is you stay at home and highlight the abuses. You don’t have to take the Qataris’ money. It’s just not a very good defence.”
Now looking close to tears as the live audience applauded, Neville said “That’s…” before admitting defeat.
“It’s unbelievable and it’s all about money and you’ve got mainline celebrities going over there for huge cheques,” guest panelist Richard Madeley said.
“You’ve got people like Robbie [Williams] going out there to sing, which I must say I’m very surprised about given all the comments that Robbie Williams has made in the past about gay rights.
“The fact that he’s going out there to sing is extraordinary. I don’t know what’s happened to people. And it’s not just him, the Black Eyed Peas are going, aren’t they?”
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