Rainbow flags will be allowed in stadiums at the 2022 World Cup after Qatar said it would comply with FIFA rules promoting tolerance and inclusion at matches, despite the Arab country’s strict anti-LGBT+ laws.
With less than two years until the tournament, though, concerns persist about the treatment facing LGBT+ fans in Qatar due to the conservative religious code prohibiting same-sex relations that conflict with FIFA’s stance against homophobia.
FIFA said it was determined to push Qatar on staging a tournament that is inclusive when the World Cup heads to the Middle East for the first time.
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“I’m an openly gay woman in football, so this is personally, to me, something I’m close to as well”, FIFA chief social responsibility and education officer Joyce Cook said.
“We will see a progressive change in all of those aspects and rainbow flags, t-shirts will all be welcome in the stadium that’s a given. They understand very well that is our stance.”
Qatar’s World Cup leadership has offered FIFA the assurances that displays promoting LGBT+ rights will not be removed.
“When it comes to the rainbow flags in the stadiums, FIFA have their own guidelines, they have their rules and regulations,” 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser Al-Khater said.
“Whatever they may be, we will respect them.”
Ahead of the staging of the Club World Cup last year, Qatar brought a member of Liverpool’s LGBT+ supporters group – Kop Outs – and his husband to the country to offer assurances that LGBT+ fans will be welcome.
“We have a country that’s conservative, however, we are a welcoming country,” Al-Khater said from Doha.
“We are open and welcoming hospitable. We understand the difference in people’s cultures. We understand the difference in people’s beliefs and so I think, again, everybody will be welcome and everybody will be treated with respect.
“Just like our culture is a culture of this world, we also expect people to respect our culture. I think there’s a balance and there’s a feeling that people will respect people from everywhere.”
Anti-discrimination activists want Qatar to go further by changing the laws.
“What it doesn’t do is help the LGBT+ Qatari community,” Chris Paouros said, a member of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board.
“It’s great for us to be able to go and put our flags up in the stadium, and that’s wonderful during a World Cup. You want it to be the festival of football.
“But ultimately we do this work because we want to make sure that everybody can be free to be who they are and if you’re a Qatari and you’re not able to, then it just feels like window dressing.”
Pressure will be intensified on Qatar ahead of the World Cup opening in November 2022.
“What I hope is … there’s an actual dialogue with the Qatari LGBT+ community and that they are not criminalised or denigrated and that actually we can make real lasting social change for Qataris,” Paouros said, wearing a face mask featuring a rainbow flag and the crest of Premier League leaders Tottenham.
Paouros is co-chair of Proud Lilywhites, a LGBT+ supporters’ group for the London club.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was among the captains to wear armbands with a rainbow flag on over the weekend as part of the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. If you’d like to help inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.
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