A well-known sports bar in the Brussels Schuman district, Kitty O'Shea's, will organise so-called "ethical screenings" of the football World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off today (Sunday), by blacking out advertising as much as possible.
As Qatar and the football tournament have been overshadowed by the country's abuse of human rights, sexism, racism and state-sanctioned homophobia, fans across the world have been conflicted about how to support their team without supporting the despotic regime in Qatar.
"We at Kitty’s believe all sports fans should be able to enjoy their sport with friends and a good drink, that is why we will show the matches on the pitch but will black out our screens in the run-up to the games, during halftime and afterwards," the bar staff confirmed to The Brussels Times.
The bar, located directly opposite the European Commission, is well-known in Brussels' so-called "Eurobubble" for its screenings of international games and competitions, drawing a lot of non-Belgian clients living in the EU capital.
'Spending billions on advertising that will not be seen'
The advertising and sponsorships of the World Cup are worth billions – money that is helping to prop up human rights abuses and cover up the deaths of at least 6,500 migrant workers in Qatar. "We are only one pub, but if every bar in Europe did the same, then sponsors might think twice about spending billions on advertising that will not be seen."
The staff hope that this initiative sends the right message about supporting sport without condoning corruption and abuse of people. Still, they realise that there is no way to block out all advertising shown during the game – such as the banners next to the pitch, for example.
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"Any broadcasting service will likely have to show the ads during the game, it will be unavoidable," they said. "But we are a bar that shows football throughout the year and our customers expect us to show the World Cup."
In Belgium, there seems to be a general disinterest in the tournament as the population's so-called "football fever" remains largely absent this year. Experts believe this is likely due to the fact that the World Cup is taking place in winter instead of in summer and the doubts about how far the Red Devils can go this year, as well as the lingering questions over Qatar's very dubious human rights record.