Greg Clarke, chairman of the U.K.’s Football Association, promises the FA will promote LGBT inclusion with Qatar, home to the 2022 World Cup.
Human rights groups and LGBT organizations haven widely criticized having the championships in the Persian Gulf nation, where homosexual conduct between men in the country is punishable by up to five years in prison. (Some transgressors have also been subjected to public lashings.) There is also complaints that migrant workers used to work on World Cup facilities have been treated like slaves—receiving no pay and having their identity papers confiscated.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter initially told gay fans interested in attending the 2022 championship, “should refrain from any sexual activities.”
In 2013, Gulf Cooperative Countries—Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, among them—reportedly discussed protocols to bar gay foreigners from entering their countries, including invasive medical examinations.
Clarke hopes engaging with Qatar’s football federation will provide a more welcoming atmosphere. “Since I became chairman 18 months ago, I have spent a lot of time traveling and building relationships in the game,” he stated. “We are building relationships with the Qataris and my aspiration is to ensure that fans attending the 2022 World Cup feel safe and welcome irrespective of gender, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.”
Speaking at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, Clarke acknowledges that discussing homophobia and human rights abuses with the Qatari is complicated, but he is hopeful fans will be able to safely travel here for the Cup.
Praising work done by various leagues to be inclusive toward LGBT fans and players, he added, “We will continue to work with campaign groups, support County FAs, sanction offenders and educate those who fall foul of our rules and regulations. Homophobia has a damaging effect to our game.”
Meanwhile, Dutch MP Richard de Mos has proposed his country’s team play in pink uniforms at the the games, instead of the country’s national colors, to protest LGBT oppression in in Qatar.
The next World Cup will be held this summer in Russia, a country with its own history of anti-LGBT discrimination and oppression. Before his retirement last year, out player Robbie Rogers threatened to wear glitter and a tiara if he made the U.S. team.