LGBT fans to boycott World Cup in Qatar over country’s stance on the community

LGBT football fan groups have said that their members will be boycotting the World Cup in Qatar “as a statement of principle” due to Fifa’s “deafening silence” surrounding Qatar’s treatment of the LGBT community.

The World Cup is to take place in Qatar between November 20 and December 18 and many LGBT football fan groups have expressed concerns over the country’s attitudes towards those in the community, which has resulted in many deciding to boycott the event altogether.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Muslims can face the death penalty if prosecuted for it.

Earlier this week, veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell said he was arrested after staging the first LGBT protest in the country to highlight its human rights abuses in the run-up to the sporting event.

Carl Fearn, co-chairman of Gaygooners, Arsenal Football Club’s supporters group for LGBT fans, which has over 1,250 members worldwide, said there has been a “deafening silence” from Fifa on the issue.

Group of people standing next to each other
Gaygooners group shot (Arsenal Media)

“Objections by groups like ours are based on the lack of fundamental human rights for LGBT+ people in Qatar (plus other countries that still criminalise LGBT+ people) and the basic right of LGBT+ people to exist”, the 59-year-old, who lives in Cumbria, told PA.

“LGBT+ people don’t choose their sexuality… LGBT+ people who live in Qatar will have to hide their true selves before, during and after the World Cup.

“We can’t speak directly for them, but we will do what we can to make the world wake up and realise sexuality is not a choice and that football really should be for everyone.

“Fifa’s ‘deafening silence’ has been telling, predictable and they are sticking their heads in the sands of Qatar.”

Andrew Tilly, one of the founders and a board member of Marching Out Together, Leeds United LGBT+ supporters group, told the PA news agency that he is not aware of anyone in his group going to the World Cup, and many may not even watch on television out of principle.

Two men standing next to each other
(Left to right) Andrew Tilly and Drew Harrison, who are co-founders of Marching Out Together (Andrew Tilly/PA)

“Most of the people I have spoken to probably would not have travelled abroad to watch England or Wales anyway, so would fall into the category ‘even if we normally travelled overseas to watch England/Wales, we would definitely boycott Qatar’,” the 59-year-old, who is based in Cheltenham, said.

“I think for some people, the dissatisfaction with FIFA’s decision extends to opting to not watching the World Cup on the TV, as a statement of principle.”

Mr Tilly also condemned comments made by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on LBC on Wednesday, where he suggested that LGBT football fans heading there should be “respectful of the host nation”.

“(They were) insensitive and unhelpful… and that’s the polite way to describe them,” he said.