Zurich refuses to approve public viewings of World Cup in Qatar
The city council of Zurich has announced it will not approve any fan zones or viewings of the World Cup in Qatar on public land. The home of FIFA is now looking into ways to protest against human rights violations in Qatar, along with other Swiss cities that have already boycotted the tournament.
Zurich city council votes to publicly boycott Qatar World Cup
By 65 votes to 42, the council in Zurich approved a proposal that called for authorities to examine “how the city of Zurich can express its protest against the [World Cup], which is inhumane to human rights and hostile to the climate.” At the vote on November 16, the council also confirmed that they would not be approving any viewings of the World Cup on public land.
The Alternative List party (AL) - the group that made the proposal - said the move was justified due to the extremely poor working conditions migrant workers faced when building football stadiums in Qatar. Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, AL city councillor Mischa Schiwow said that Zurich, despite being the home of FIFA, should not support the “unworthy World Cup.”
They also noted that holding a World Cup in a desert country in winter is a symbol of “climate madness”, as Qatari authorities have had to instal huge air conditioning systems to cope with the high temperatures. As people in Switzerland try to save energy, AL argued it didn’t seem appropriate to support such a “waste” of energy.
Zurich to join Geneva and Vevey in banning World Cup viewings on public land
Zurich now joins Vevey, Geneva and 20 French cities in prohibiting big screens and fan zones on public land during the 2022 World Cup. The policy reflects a dramatic change in attitude, as Zurich promoted and supported a number of public viewings of the World Cup in Russia in 2018, most notably in Turbinenplatz.
A spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party told the Tages-Anzeiger that the ban sent a “strong signal to FIFA” that amid a cost of living crisis, the “most expensive World Cup of all time” should not be supported. Upper estimates made by the German news site DW put the cost of the Qatar World Cup at around 200 billion dollars, enough to fund the Swiss Army for more than 28 years.
Opponents accuse Zurich council of capitalising on outrage
Others are not so keen on the boycott, with FDP. The Liberals local councillor Michael Schmid arguing that it was not the task of a local government to conduct “foreign policy.” Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, he said that the AL proposal was “cheap outrage management” and that the party practises “censorship when they want to ban an event on public land that doesn't suit them."
“First of all, you want to ban the consumption of meat by the people of Zurich for the sake of the global climate. Then you want to ban the air show at the Züri-Fäscht for the world climate. And now you want to ban the World Cup public viewing for world peace," noted Swiss People’s Party councillor, Stephan Iten. He then jokingly accused the AL of wanting to ban fun in the city.
Private World Cup viewings in Zurich still going ahead
While viewings on public land are banned, a report from the Tages-Anzeiger has found that private viewings are not as popular as in recent years. According to the Security Department of Zurich, only a few restaurants have actually submitted applications for large screenings of the tournament, the majority of which are small gatherings.
Some, like the Nordbrücke café-bar in Wipkingen, say they will not show any games as their customers have “lost interest in football.” The largest screenings so far in Canton Zurich have been announced in Winterthur and Hall 550 in Zurich Oerlikon, where a large indoor viewing space for up to 1.500 people is planned.