The University of Bristol defends decision to screen World Cup matches amid controversy

Uni to offer ‘charitable donations’ to LGBTQ+ Foundations or Amnesty International as justification for the decision

Amid the controversy surrounding this year’s World Cup, Bristol University has decided to screen the games on campus in the Balloon Bar.

We asked the university and the SU to comment on the decision to publicly screen the tournament.

The current 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar has attracted controversy due to issues surrounding the rights of migrant workers, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In February 2021, The Guardian revealed that 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country won the contest to host this year’s world cup in 2010. Just in the last month the Qatar FIFA World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman described homosexuality as, “damage in the mind”.

It is only in the recent weeks leading up to the tournament that the controversy has gained widespread media attention, leading many people to question the morality of viewing the matches.

The Ballon Bar is screening each match live through projectors and TVs. The screenings are fully equipped with audio too, meaning the games take the centre stage.

The Balloon Bar in the SU is intended to be safe and inclusive place for all students so some have called into question the university’s decision to screen matches here.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We’ve carefully considered the issues surrounding showing the FIFA World Cup and decided to screen the matches to give students that want to watch the tournament an opportunity to do so in a safe and inclusive space.

“In coming to this decision we sought the opinions of other universities on how to appropriately balance both the wants of our customers and the general feelings some have around Qatar and its hosting of this global sporting event.

“In addition we are discussing how we can support some of the communities affected by the issues in Qatar by offering charitable donations to LGBTQ+ foundations or Amnesty International.”

Lucy Matthews, Bristol SU’s current Sport and Student Development Officer and previous Club Captain of University of Bristol Women’s Football said:

“I believe that sport should bring people together. And when it doesn’t, it’s time to call it out. The World Cup has been a source of controversy. Personally I’ve found the politics surrounding it really difficult, particularly as a gay woman and a huge football fan and I know other students will feel the same.

“As Bristol University is home to many international students it is a good thing to celebrate different communities and nationalities. We know a lot of our members will be wanting to watch their country compete and come together as a community to do that.

“We see the World Cup this year as an opportunity to come together, but also speak out against injustice which is why I am running an intramural sport rainbow campaign and will be hosting some charity fundraisers.”

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