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Brussels pub to switch off TVs during World Cup commercial breaks

09:30 22/11/2022

A popular bar in Brussels' EU district hoping to appease both fans and critics of the World Cup is planning to show "ethical screenings" by turning off the televisions during commercial breaks.

Many have criticised or are even outright boycotting this year’s World Cup because it is being held in Qatar, a country known for its human rights violations and alleged use of slave labour in the construction of the stadium where teams will play.

That criticism has only grown with the start of the football series, as Qatar reneged on a multi-million dollar deal with Budweiser when it decided to ban the sale of beer, and announced that it expects all fans to adhere to the country’s strict standards of conservative dress, for both men but especially for women.

Kitty O'Shea's, a well-known pub opposite the Berlaymont, says it will still broadcast the World Cup but turn off all screens during advertisements.

“Millions of fans have struggled with guilt over how to support their team without supporting the despotic regime in Qatar,” the pub's manager wrote on its Facebook page.

“We at Kitty's believe that all sports fans should be able to enjoy their sport with friends and a nice drink. World Cup advertising and sponsorship are worth billions and that money helps perpetuate human rights abuses and cover up the deaths of guest workers in Qatar.

"We are just one cafe, but if every cafe in Europe did the same, sponsors would think twice about spending billions on advertising that is not seen.”

Others in the catering industry, including popular cafes La Maison du Peuple and Brasserie de l'Union in Saint-Gilles, have announced that they will not broadcast the World Cup in Qatar at all due to their disgust with the human rights violations that have taken place in that country.

Elsewhere in Brussels, some sports fans are boycotting the Qatar World Cup as a whole.

A rally was held on Schuman roundabout by climate activists, who called the Qatar World CUp “an utter aberration” and urged others to boycott it.

“You can love football, but not like this, not with this level of indecency,” Kim Lê Quang of Rise for Climate told Bruzz.

“Slaves dying in conditions that could not be more opaque, air-conditioned stadiums, hundreds of thousands of people travelling back and forth by plane. At a time of global crisis that affects us all to a greater or lesser extent, this should not be allowed.”

Belgium is also looking to reduce the amount of sports betting that takes place around the World Cup, which tends to be a popular time for gambling.

As a result, the National Lottery will not advertise in traditional media during the football championship, meaning no ads on radio, television or in print media.

According to the office of minister Vincent Van Peteghem, the World Cup “is traditionally a time when more people turn to sports betting,” as was the case at the last World Cup which was held in Russia in 2018.

Written by Helen Lyons