(Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)
LGBTQ+ football fans travelling to the World Cup should be “respectful” of Qatar’s anti-homosexuality laws, James Cleverly has said.
Labour immediately accused the foreign secretary of a “shockingly tone deaf” decision to defend “discriminatory values”.
England and Wales have both qualified for the tournament which kicks off in three weeks time.
The build-up to the international tournament has seen renewed focus on Qatar’s human rights record, including its criminalisation of same-sex relationships.
It comes after veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell said he was arrested after staging the first LGBTQ+ protest in the country.
In an interview with LBC on Wednesday morning, Cleverly said he had spoken to the Qatari authorities about gay football fans attending the event.
“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves,” he said.
“They know that that means that they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.”
He added: “One of the things I will say for football fans is please do be respectful of the host nation.
“They will try, they are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football.
“And I think with a little bit of flexibility and compromise on both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: “This is shockingly tone deaf from James Cleverly.
“Sport should be open to all. Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.
“The government should be challenging Fifa on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.”
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: “The World Cup should be a celebration of the beautiful game, instead it’s being used by countries like Qatar to sport-wash their atrocious human rights records.
“Any UK officials who attend should be using their position to highlight human rights abuses, not endorsing the regime.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.