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LGBTQ+ fan groups accuse Fifa and Qatar of ignoring World Cup concerns

Eight supporter groups from around the world say there has been little effort to proactively engage with fans' concerns
Everton's Dutch defender John Heitinga wears rainbow-coloured laces as part of a campaign against homophobia in football during an English Premier League football match on 21 September 2013 (AFP/File photo)

LGBTQ+ supporter groups from across the world have accused both Fifa and the organisers of the Qatar World Cup of ignoring their concerns for members of the community attending the tournament later this year.

The eight groups, including Wales' Rainbow Wall, England's LGBTQ+ fan group Three Lions Pride, the Independent Supporters Council North America and Football Supporters Europe, issued the statement on Friday, the same day that the draw for the tournament took place.

The statement said both Fifa and the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee had failed to adequately prove that members of the LGBTQ+ community would be safe at the World Cup.

"In our conversations with both Fifa and the SC (Supreme Committee), there has been little effort from organisers to proactively engage around the concerns fans and rights groups have raised," the statement read.

"Instead, we have often heard the well drummed PR line that 'this is a World Cup for all'.

"Human rights deserve detail not deflection, but all we have unfortunately seen from those in charge is slogans not safety, gaslighting not guarantees, avoidance not action. Simply put, this is not good enough."

Male homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a punishment of up to three years in prison and a fine and the possibility of death penalty.

However, there are no known cases in which the death penalty has been enforced for homosexuality in the Gulf nation.

Nasser al-Khater, the chief executive of the Qatar World Cup, has previously stated that "any fan of any gender, [sexual] orientation, religion, race should rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world - and they’ll all be welcome here".

Fifa president Gianni Infantino also said last week in Doha that “everyone will see that everyone is welcome here in Qatar, even if we speak about LGBTQ”.

Flag warning

On Friday, a senior security chief in Doha, the Qatari capital, warned that rainbow flags could be confiscated at the tournament. 

Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah al-Ansari said high-profile protests against Qatar's laws on homosexuality could "insult the whole society".

“If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it, to really insult him, but to protect him,” Ansari told the Associated Press news agency. 

“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him)... I cannot guarantee the behaviour of the whole people. 

"And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.’”

Along with homosexuality being illegal in the country, critics have also pointed to Qatar's human rights record as to why the World Cup should not be staged there.

Qatar has been accused of failing to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the last decade, many involved in the construction of World Cup stadiums, despite widespread evidence of a link between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions. 

'Positive legacy'

The eight LGBTQ+ groups, which also included Europe's Queer Football Fanclubs, ADO Den Haag's Rose Regahs, Supporters against Homophobia Norway and the UK's Pride in Football, also voiced concerns about Qatar's own LGBTQ+ community.

"This tournament needs to be safe for travelling fans who decide to go but must also create a positive legacy for LGBTQ+ people in Qatar," the statement said.

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"To this end, we will continue working with other stakeholders and governing bodies to express these concerns and help shape a more equal and inclusive future for football."

Asked for comment following the group's statement, Fifa told the UK's Mirror newspaper: "Fifa has been exchanging regularly with a number of fan groups as part of a stakeholders engagement process on inclusion and anti-discrimination ahead of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. 

"This process includes Football Supporters Europe, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) as well as a number of groups assembled by the Fare network.

"Concrete answers have been provided to address their concerns and Fifa will continue to engage with those groups and provide reassurances for all LGBTIQ+ fans to feel safe, respected and welcome as they follow their team at the World Cup later this year, as for all Fifa competitions."