A CAMPAIGN to create fanzones for supporters of the Wales men's football team to watch them playing in this year's World Cup in Qatar is gathering momentum, our sister site The National reports.

Mark Jones from Blackwood has started a petition for fellow football fans to sign in order to put pressure on local authorities to make provision for supporters unable to make the journey to Qatar this November.

Mr Jones was part of the campaign that saw fanzones established in multiple locations during Wales' unforgettable Euro 2016 tournament, which saw more than 70,000 fans watching Wales games on big screens in places like Swansea, Merthyr, Pontypridd and Cardiff.

It's thought around 20,000 fans attended a fanzone at the Principality Stadium in 2016 to see the semi final game due to the enormous demand.

The Wales men's football team will be travelling to Qatar in November to take part in the country's first World Cup since 1958, and for many fans it will be their first experience of seeing the team play on such a huge stage.

The last World Cup in 2018 was viewed by 3.57 billion viewers - roughly half the world's population.

Free Press Series: Supporters watching Wales play Northern Ireland during Euro 2016 at the fanzone in Cardiff (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency).Supporters watching Wales play Northern Ireland during Euro 2016 at the fanzone in Cardiff (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency).

Despite the huge following that travelled to France for the Euro 2016 tournament, many fans won't be travelling to Qatar for a range of reasons, including the prohibitive cost of travel and accommodation to the Middle East and the timing of the tournament coming so close to Christmas, while many fans are refusing to go on moral grounds.

Organisers say that all will be welcome at this year's World Cup, although Qatari authorities haven't been able to guarantee safety for LGBTQ+ supporters visiting their country, and have been very vague about the enforcement of anti-gay laws in the country against supporters, journalists and team staff visiting their country.

There have also been long-standing concerns regarding migrant workers who have built the new stadiums for the tournament, with reports they have experienced poor living conditions and low salaries while having their passports confiscated by their employers.

Between 2010 and late 2020, the Guardian reports that over 6,500 migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar. It equates to more than one person a die dying, and is believed to be an underestimate.

Talking to The National about the campaign, Mark Jones said, "After Covid, and the price of life right now, people need a joyous cause to get behind. Welsh football right now can be that unifier.

"A national fanzone in Cardiff, as well as sister sites in other areas would allow the vast majority of non-travelling fans to come together, celebrate, cheer on the national team. There is no reason why we can have a festival of football with attractions, big screen, music etc for the duration of the tournament."

Supporter Cai Jones from Llanfairpwll on Ynys Môn will be making the trip to watch Wales play in Qatar after he and his friends secured tickets, although the journey isn't as straightforward as a usual away trip.

They'll be flying to Dubai, where they'll stay, before making a day trip to nearby Al-Rayyan to see Wales take on the USA in their opening game.

"We're looking forward to flying with Emirates, usually with Wales away we go with RyanAir", he joked.

"If we were staying in Qatar, I don't think I'd be looking forward as much, it just doesn't sit well with me. I know Dubai isn't much better but it's a little bit more relaxed."

Although Cai Jones and his friends will see Wales play their opening game in Qatar, he hopes to see the rest of the team’s games in a fanzone in Caernarfon.

Meanwhile, Wrexham MS Lesley Griffiths has confirmed via her correspondence with Wrexham Borough Council that a fanzone has been planned in the city for the World Cup on the High Street and in Tŷ Pawb - which was shortlisted this year for UK Museum of the Year.

The petition can be signed here.