LGBTQ+ fans ‘not taken seriously’ by FIFA or Qatar 2022 World Cup organisers, say groups

Published by Jon Holmes on

Statement issued by eight supporters groups, including Three Lions Pride from England and The Rainbow Wall from Wales, says neither world football’s governing body nor Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have made enough effort to engage with concerns of LGBTQ+ fans…

By Jon Holmes

The flag of Three Lions Pride, the supporters group for England fans who are LGBTQ+ and allies

Eight football supporters’ groups from across Europe and North America have issued a joint statement detailing their frustration with a “broken process” in attempting so far to engage with FIFA or the organisers of the Qatar 2022 World Cup on LGBTQ+ rights.

Shortly before Friday’s World Cup draw, the groups – which include Football Supporters Europe and both the fan groups for LGBTQ+ people and allies following the England and Wales national teams – said “slogans… gaslighting… and avoidance” have characterised their conversations to date with representatives of world football’s governing body and Qatar 2022’s Supreme Committee (SC) for Delivery and Legacy.

“There has been little effort from organisers to proactively engage around the concerns fans and rights groups have raised,” read the statement. “Instead, we have often heard the well-drummed PR line that “this is a World Cup for all”… We cannot, in good faith, tell our members – LGBT+ people or allies – that this is a World Cup for all.”

The ‘Social Sustainability’ page of the Qatar 2022 SC website states that the World Cup will be “for everyone”, adding: “We want this to be the most inclusive, people-focused edition of the tournament ever held.”

However, the build-up to the November and December showpiece has been beset by controversy surrounding not just the safety and security of women and LGBTQ+ people, but also the welfare and rights of migrant workers and other human rights issues.

For example, on LGBTQ+ inclusion, there has been a lack of clarity over whether visiting fans might be permitted to wave Pride rainbow flags. On Friday, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari – a local security chief – told the Associated Press that such flags could be confiscated “to protect” individuals from the “behaviour” of others, appearing to backtrack on an earlier promise from the SC.

Three Lions Pride was founded in 2018 with members going to the World Cup in Russia to support England

The fan groups’ statement detailed the “simple” aims they have taken into their conversations with FIFA and the SC.

“To gain concrete assurances and examples of how LGBT+ fans, players, journalists and staff would be protected in a country that criminalises their existence; to raise concerns regarding human rights in Qatar; and to shine a light on the plight of LGBT+ Qataris and those living in Qatar.”

The statement continued: “A founding principle of our group is that we should be able to follow our team as our authentic selves wherever we play in the world without fear for our safety and with freedom from persecution.”

However, the eight groups say they are hugely disappointed with the perceived lack of engagement from the tournament organisers and FIFA to address issues related to LGBTQ+ inclusion.

“Human rights deserve detail not deflection,” reads the statement, “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.”

‘A complete disregard for fans’

On Thursday, 16 international organisations including Football v Homophobia and LEAP Sports from the UK, the Federation of Gay Games and the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF) issued a letter via the Press Association news agency outlining eight action points for FIFA and the SC to address over LGBTQ+ rights.

The organisations claim world football’s governing body has responded to some of the points but that there had been no response at the time of writing from the SC.

Similarly, the fan groups’ statement reflects a shared frustration over the paucity of information and clarification from Qatar 2022 chiefs.

“We have seen no details about how our trans+ members will be treated with respect through security checks,” it continues. “We have heard no specifics on guarantees that LGBT+ people (fans or residents) will not be arrested for their existence. We have witnessed a complete disregard for fans throughout this broken process.”

The statement concludes by urging FIFA and the SC to step up their engagement with LGBTQ+ supporters ahead of the tournament and make “a genuine commitment to change”.

“It is clear that fans’ voices, especially from minority groups, are not taken seriously by FIFA and the SC. We are the backbone of the game – listen to us, especially when we are trying to make football a better environment for all.

“Our questions and concerns are separate to the moral debate on whether LGBT+ fans should attend, and our work will continue after this statement, after this World Cup. We will be heard, we will be seen, we will not be going anywhere.

“This tournament needs to be safe for travelling fans who decide to go but must also create a positive legacy for LGBT+ people in Qatar. 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.

“Change requires both sides to work together – we hope that FIFA and the SC will uphold their end of the bargain. That said, our aims remain the same, and we will pursue them with or without their input.

“We will continue to push and are hoping that we will be heard and that we can make change together. But it needs two parties to do so and a genuine commitment for change from the organisers and governing bodies as well.

“Signatories: Football Supporters Europe, Three Lions Pride (England), Queer Football Fanclubs (Europe), Roze Règâhs (ADO Den Haag), Independent Supporters Council North America, Football Supporters against Homophobia Norway, Pride in Football (UK), Rainbow Wall (Wales).”

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

We’re interested in your news and stories! Share with us and tap into a worldwide audience through our Google News affiliate website – which pulled in over one million impressions in 2021 – and our popular social channels with over 10,000 followers. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor