Between 400 and 500 migrants died while working on the development of the World Cup, according to claims from the Qatar organising chief.
Estimates have differed wildly as experts calculate the true human cost of the tournament in Doha. Some sources close to the tournament had put the figure as low as 40, but the Guardian newspaper has reported a figure of at least 6,500.
However, Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, now says "the estimate is around 400 - between 400 and 500, I don't have the exact number".
"That's something that's being discussed," he says in a new interview on Talk TV's Piers Morgan Uncensored. "One death is a death too many. Plain and simple. And I think every year the health and safety standards on the sites are improving, at least on our sites, the World Cup sites that we're responsible for, most definitely.
"To the extent that you've got trading units, representatives of the German trade union, representatives of the Swiss trade unions have commended the work that's been done on the World Cup site."
Qatar, where foreigners make up the majority of the 2.9 million population, has faced intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers.
A 48-page report by Amnesty, Reality Check 2021, said that practices such as withholding salaries and charging workers to change jobs were still rife, despite labour reforms in 2014.
Qatar had said its labour system was still a work in progress but denied allegations in the report that thousands of migrant workers in the 2022 World Cup host nation were being trapped and exploited.
Max Tunon, head of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Qatar office, has said Qatar worker death data is frequently reported without necessary nuance.
When asked whether labour standards were not good enough when development began, Al Thawadi said: "I think overall the need for labour reform in itself dictates that improvements have to happen. And just so we're clear, this was something that was recognised before we bid. The improvements that we have had aren't because of the World Cup. These are improvements that we knew we had to do because of our own values, improvements that have to happen, whether it's in terms of health and safety standards, whether it's in terms of improving accommodations standards, whether it's in terms of dismantling the Kafala system.... the World Cup served as a vehicle, as an accelerant, as a catalyst."
Nicholas McGeehan, director of human rights campaign group FairSquare, expressed scepticism at the new numbers from Qatar.
"This is just the latest example of Qatar's inexcusable lack of transparency on the issues of workers' deaths," he said. "We need proper data and thorough investigations, not vague figures announced through media interviews. Fifa and Qatar still have a lot of questions to answer, not least where, when, and how did these men die and did their families receive compensation."
To add to a sense of confusion, a spokesman for the Supreme Committee later clarified that the figures given in the TV interview covers all work-related fatalities between 2014 and 2020 rather than specifically on World Cup projects.
"The Secretary General told Piers Morgan’s ‘Uncensored’ programme that there were three work-related deaths and 37 non-work related deaths on the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy’s projects," the spokesman added. "This is documented on an annual basis in the SC’s public reporting and covers the eight stadiums, 17 non-competition venues and other related sites under the SC’s scope. Separate quotes regarding figures refer to national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities."