‘Shockingly scandalous’: LGBT+ fans groups blast FIFA ahead of Qatar 2022 World Cup

Published by Jon Holmes on

Groups for LGBTQ+ people and allies who support England and Wales say FIFA’s letter asking 32 national associations and their players to focus on football at World Cup is “deeply troubling”; Pride in Football, the network of LGBTQ+ fans groups, also part of joint statement, which says ‘No Pride Without All’ is a more appropriate slogan for Qatar 2022 than ‘Now is All’

By Jon Holmes

Three Lions Pride, The Rainbow Wall and Pride in Football are part of a fan-led campaign titled ‘No Pride Without All’

FIFA has been accused of “sickening hypocrisy” ahead of the World Cup in Qatar by three groups representing LGBTQ+ football supporters and allies.

Three Lions Pride and The Rainbow Wall, the England and Wales fans groups that are backed by the Football Association and the FA Wales respectively, have issued a joint statement alongside Pride in Football in response to a letter sent by world football’s governing body to all 32 national associations whose teams will compete at Qatar 2022.

The letter was signed by President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General Fatma Samoura and urged the associations to “focus on the football” amid increasing demand for FIFA and the Qatari authorities to address a range of human rights concerns.

The contents of the letter were revealed in a report by Sky News on Thursday that led to stern criticism of FIFA by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Sky News’ Sports Reporter Rob Harris discusses the contents of the FIFA letter with Sky Sports News

Meanwhile, a report in The Athletic on Saturday said that several nations had “reacted with confusion” to the letter and were not planning to alter their position as a result of it being sent.

In their joint statement, the LGBT+ fans groups said they were “deeply disappointed” by the letter.

“FIFA have repeatedly wheeled out empty words and false promises in an almost transparent guise of hypocrisy aimed only at self-preservation,” read the statement.

In April, Three Lions Pride, the Rainbow Wall and Pride in Football were part of a coalition of eight international supporters groups that voiced frustration at the “broken process” of trying to have constructive dialogue with FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the Qatar 2022 tournament organisers.

The eight groups said that FIFA and the SC had shown “a complete disregard” for LGBTQ+ fans and urged the two bodies to step up engagement with the groups and make “a genuine commitment for change”.

Seven months later, it appears little progress has been made.

The new statement continued: “Despite being repeatedly asked, FIFA have provided no real interventions to protect the most basic human rights, for either migrant workers building the infrastructure needed or for those living under the Qatari regime. Nor have they provided the real assurances on fan safety needed by those considering travelling to the World Cup.

“We have received nothing but vaguely worded statements of no real substance. The fact that continued global requests for FIFA to follow their own policy expecting Host Nations to both uphold and protect the universally accepted human rights of all have been pushed aside raises serious concerns.”

Three Lions Pride, The Rainbow Wall and Pride in Football have recently launched a campaign titled ‘No Pride Without All’. So far, 25 groups – including Football Supporters Europe, the charity Love Football Hate Racism, and Sports Media LGBT+ – are backing the initiative which seeks to highlight the absence of LGBTQ+ visibility at the World Cup.

The two national team groups for England and Wales say none of their members plan to travel to Qatar, in part as a show of solidarity towards LGBTQ+ people who live in the host country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes reported this week on the expected absence of LGBTQ+ fans from the UK at Qatar 2022

A recent report by Human Rights Watch carried testimonies of abuse, arrest and ill-treatment at the hands of Qatari officials working for a Ministry of Interior police force. A government spokesperson said allegations made in the report consisted of “demonstrably false information”.

In recent weeks, leading figures in Qatar including the Emir and Supreme Committee CEO Nasser Al-Khater have continued to repeat the message that “everyone is welcome” to visit and attend matches so long as they “respect the culture and traditions” of the Gulf state.

In an interview with state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera on 20 October, Al-Khater replied to a question about “the LGBTQ issue” by saying: “It’s a social issue… Everybody has the right to their own opinions.”

He added: “I think that people should enjoy the sport”.

Infantino’s letter to national associations echoed this request, with the President writing: “Please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world.”

The fan groups’ statement said the words of the FIFA President were “deeply troubling”.

“Talking about human rights is neither ideological nor political. It is simply asking for decency and the ability for people to be able to watch their teams without fear of abuse.”

The statement continued: “Why ignore the widespread multinational challenges around human rights? FIFA claim to have a unique opportunity to “welcome and embrace everyone, regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality” to the World Cup and yet appear to try limiting the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

“This appears to be an attempt to prevent competing nations from uplifting the voices of affected communities, such as migrant workers and the LGBT+ community, who have consistently said this is not a World Cup for all.

“Pithy hashtags and PR fluff-lines do not ensure human rights are upheld, nor do they guarantee a welcoming tournament for all.

“#NowIsAll is FIFA continuing to exclude marginalised communities from accessing the game we all love. We stand by this which is why we say there is #NoPrideWithoutAll.”

The statement also referred to a quote taken from a Twitter post recently published on the account of a prominent Qatari media personality. The tweet was later removed for violating the social media platform’s rules.

The statement continued: “We are expected to fall silent whilst FIFA encourage us to respect a culture which freely allows voices carrying damaging messages calling for “a clean sporting event without homosexuals or troublemakers”.”

The fans groups’ statement concluded: “The hypocrisy is sickening, and their silence is shockingly scandalous. We collectively condemn FIFA for blatantly turning their back on the global football community and their own commitment to protect and uphold human rights.”

Further reading…

The doctor discovering Qatar’s ‘dark’ side (Sky Sports)

Qatar’s ‘welcome’ is wishful thinking (Chris Paouros for Kick It Out)

‘Qatari officials gang raped me for being gay’: The truth about how the World Cup hosts treat LGBT people (Patrick Strudwick for i)

Mental health is way in to talk about being LGBTQ+ in Qatar – is football listening?

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.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor