A group dedicated to ending discrimination in soccer has a warning for any gay soccer fans going to Russia for the 2018 World Cup: Don’t hold hands or show affection in public. It could be dangerous.
The executive director of Fare (which used to be known as Football Against Racism in Europe) told the Guardian that the group will be issuing guidelines to LGBT fans in the run-up to the World Cup, which runs June 14-July 15, 2018.
Piara Powar, executive director of Fare, said:“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community. The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans — do go to the World Cup but be cautious. If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so — that depends on which city they are in and the time of day.
“The guide will also include some detailed explanations of, for example, the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. It is not a crime to be gay but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”
Russia in 2013 passed what is called a “gay propaganda” law to prohibit promoting homosexuality. Attacks against LGBT people are not uncommon and the situation in the Russian republic of Chechnya is downright terrifying and deadly for gay people. Fare’s advisory makes total sense, especially for games played outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“There’s a profound problem with homophobia in Russia,” Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times. “Fans have to feel safe, and you cannot feel safe in a country that has bad laws and policies that discriminate against you.”
Fare is asking FIFA, soccer’s governing body, “to introduce an official rule whereby fans can be reprimanded under a specific charge of homophobia.” It also has asked FIFA to allow groups from Germany and Britain to raise rainbow flags inside World Cup stadiums.
Outsports knows of one group of British LGBT soccer fans that wants to go to the World Cup in Russia but is working with FIFA and European soccer officials on safety guarantees.
Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of sustainability and diversity, said FIFA had received assurances from the Russian government “that everyone will feel safe, comfortable and welcome,” the New York Times reported.
The situation will be no better for LGBT fans in 2022, when Qatar hosts the World Cup. Homosexuality is illegal in that Muslim country and gay fans have already been told to be cautious.