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French cities to ban Qatar World Cup fan zones

REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari
Lusail Stadium will host the World Cup 2022 final

Several major French cities including Lille, Strasbourg and Bordeaux said they will not organise fan zones or put up giant outdoor screens to show Qatar World Cup soccer matches in protest against ecological and humanitarian issues.

Leftist and ecologist mayors in those cities said the loss of immigrant workers’ lives during construction of the stadia in Qatar and the energy that will be wasted to cool the sports arenas means they would not promote the November 20 to December 18 event.

“It would be a farce if we were to be complicit with the humanitarian and ecological abuses that are embodied by this World Cup,” ecologist Bordeaux mayor Pierre Hurmic said on BFM TV on Monday.

The small but wealthy Gulf state has faced intense criticism from human rights groups and media over its treatment of migrant workers, who along with other foreigners comprise the bulk of the country’s population.

A Guardian newspaper analysis in February 2021 concluded 6,500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010 and the International Labour Organisation has said Qatar is not adequately reporting worker deaths.

Qatar’s World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), have disputed the claim that “the tournament has cost thousands of people their lives”.

The government has said its labour system is a work in progress, but denied a 2021 Amnesty report that thousands of migrant workers were still being exploited.

“It would be really difficult to have a party while forgetting the dead bodies and the humanitarian situation in the aberration that is the World Cup in Qatar,” Hurmic said, adding that he would not allow giant screens and fan zones.

He said that at a time when French citizens are being asked to be frugal with energy it would be “incongruous” to take part in an energy-wasting event such as an air-conditioned World Cup in a hot desert country.

On Saturday, the leftist mayor of northern French city Lille said it would not show World Cup matches on giant screens to demonstrate its disapproval of the event being held in Qatar.

Martine Aubry called the World Cup in Qatar “a nonsense in terms of human rights, the environment and sport”.

Last week, the city of Strasbourg, home to the European parliament, became the first major French city to ban World Cup fan zones, with its ecologist mayor Jeanne Barseghian denouncing the abuse of workers’ rights and environmental reasons.

The centrist mayor of Reims – citing environmental and human rights issues – has also said he would ban outdoor screens, but said soccer fans could watch the games in local restaurants and bars.