The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will begin on 7 June. A2 Global evaluates the potential risks business travellers visiting France for the competition could encounter.
Between 7 June and 7 July, supporters of 24 national football teams, including fans of Argentina, England, Japan, and the US, will be in France for the 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup. The tournament features a total of 52 matches, and the opening fixture will be held at the 48,000 capacity Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. The final will take place at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, with a capacity of almost 60,000, in Lyon. FIFA has said that over 720,000 tickets for the Women’s World Cup have been sold.
The nine host cities are: Grenoble, Lyon, Le Havre, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims, Rennes, and Valenciennes.
In Paris, a fan zone will be set up at Jardin Nelson Mandela, a green space in the Forum des Halles shopping district, in the 1st arrondissement. Fans will be able to watch live broadcasts of the matches on large screens in the zone, which can each accommodate up to 10,000 supporters. There will be similar zones in other major cities.
France is a generally safe destination, however business travellers planning to visit for the World Cup should be made aware of risks they could encounter while in the country.
Main risks facing business travellers visiting France for the Women’s World Cup
Social unrest: Since November 2018, members of the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement have staged highly disruptive and violent protests across the country. Despite gradually declining turnouts, the demonstrations are still taking place every Saturday, and continue to attract tens of thousands. In Paris, main gathering points include the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a popular tourist location where hotels, restaurants, and shops are located.
Terrorism: France has experienced a spate of terrorist attacks by sympathisers or followers of Islamic State (IS) since 2015. Locations have included areas frequented by foreign nationals. In Paris, these include: Opéra district, scene of a stabbing attack in May 2018; and the Stade de France, where an international football match was targeted in co-ordinated terrorist attacks in November 2015, which led to 130 fatalities. Other cities that will host World Cup matches have also been targeted. In Nice, 86 people were killed when an Islamist terrorist drove a truck into crowds celebrating France’s national day on 14 July 2016. On 24 May 2019, 13 people were injured when an improvised explosive device containing nails, screws and bolts exploded outside a bakery in central Lyon. Opportunistic IS sympathisers could target fan zones and other related venues during the high-profile tournament.
Pickpocketing and harassment: Petty crime – such as pickpocketing and bag snatching – is a key risk facing foreign visitors to French cities. There is an elevated risk of pickpocketing in crowded streets and tourist hotspots in Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower and Louvre museum. Visiting football fans, who will be clearly identifiable by their national team’s colours, will be targets for thieves. Female travellers and LGBTQ groups are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment. This will mostly take the form of incidents of cat-calling and verbal assault, which have been outlawed since August 2018.
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