The England national team’s largest LGBTQ+ supporters’ group has urged Qatar’s authorities to provide clear reassurances that it will be safe for gay fans to visit for the World Cup – and says it does not know of a single England LGBTQ+ fan who plans to attend the finals, because they feel “unsafe or uncertain”.
The call from the Three Lions Pride group comes a day after the Football Association said it had sought, and received, reassurances that gay supporters who held hands and anyone who waved a rainbow flag would not be prosecuted.
While welcoming the FA’s efforts, Three Lions Pride’s co-founder, Joe White, said that Qatar’s authorities needed to state publicly that gay fans would be completely protected “because ultimately they are the ones who can enforce or suspend laws”.
“We appreciate the lengthy work the FA has done behind the scenes on engaging with the Supreme Committee, but there are still more assurances and details required for us to best support any fans attending who may wish to show solidarity with the LGBT+ community,” White said.
“As far as our membership is concerned, there are no LGBT+ people attending with the England Supporters Travel Club for the World Cup and members either didn’t apply for the ballot or returned them due to feeling unsafe and uncertain given the lack of reassurances by Fifa and Qatar’s Supreme Committee.”
When asked whether he knew of any gay England fans travelling to Qatar, White said: “I’m not aware of any going out for the tournament. I can’t guarantee there aren’t some LGBT+ fans going, though I highly doubt it from the conversations I’ve had.”
Football has also been urged to do more by the LGB Alliance’s Kate Barker, who said that some of its campaigns to support gay rights at the World Cup, such as captains of national teams wearing a OneLove armband, risked appearing “performative” when there was still so much uncertainty over safety.
“The fact homosexuality is illegal in Qatar means that it is a pretty precarious and dangerous to suggest that gay fans will definitely be safe without firm guarantees that is the case,” she said.
A similar warning was conveyed by the gay Liverpool fan Paul Amann, who visited Qatar for the Club World Championship in 2019. “The Qatari authorities have not delivered on anything that moves people towards a more inclusive World Cup,” he said. “In fact, the activities of the state since my visit have clearly indicated a very hard line that will see LGBT+ people in real jeopardy if they attend.”
Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said she was encouraged by the FA’s stance. “As we approach the 2022 men’s World Cup, we must remember that Qatar is a country where LGBTQ+ people are persecuted simply for being themselves,” she said. “Sadly, this year’s tournament is not safe for everyone, which is why it’s so important to see Harry Kane, alongside many other captains, pledging to wear an anti-discrimination armband.”
The German club Hoffenheim, who are fourth in the Bundesliga, have said they will not give any coverage to the World Cup because of the difficulty in providing what they describe as “urgently required analytical commentary contextualising the sporting events” in the country.