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Barcelona warn fans over Saudi Arabia’s anti-gay laws ahead of Supercopa

The Spanish club included a warning about ‘severe penalties’ for same-sex relations, and pro-LGBTQ social media posts, to fans going to Riyadh.

UD Barbastro v FC Barcelona - Copa Del Rey Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Spanish soccer giants FC Barcelona have been accused of “hypocrisy” by one of their own fan groups after sharing reminders of the risks facing LGBTQ fans going to watch the club play in Saudi Arabia.

For the fourth time in five years, Barca is in the Saudi capital Riyadh to compete in the Supercopa de Espana, a mini tournament being played during the winter break in the La Liga season.

Now, guidance issued on the club’s website, that includes references to “same-sex relations” and “LGBTI causes,” is attracting attention.

In a section titled “Recommendations for foreigners on Saudi Arabian soil”, the advice reads…

“People are advised to be respectful and prudent when it comes to public demonstrations of affection. Indecent behaviour, including any action of a sexual nature, can lead to severe legal consequence for foreigners. Same-sex relations can also be subjected to severe penalties, as well as open displays of support for LGBTI causes, even on social media.”

Fan group Penya Almogàvers, which is officially recognized by the Catalan club, highlighted a different article published on the Barca website later in the day about a human-rights initiative and described the mixed messaging as “hypocrisy.”

“While supporting Human Rights, recommendations are given to fans for the Super Cup match played in Saudi Arabia, a country where Human Rights are not respected,” the group posted on X.

Tagging in the account of Barcelona president Joan Laporta, Penya Almogàvers asked him: ”Where are the values ​​of the club?”

The Human Dignity Trust says LGBTQ people in Saudi Arabia are “frequently subject to arrest… some of those arrested have been executed by authorities.”

It notes a U.S. Department of State report in 2020 that found capital punishment was not enforced in that year, but that the “opacity” of law enforcement in the Gulf kingdom means it is not possible to be sure of the situation.

Speaking to The Guardian on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives Minky Worden criticized the lack of guidance for women in Barca’s recommendations to fans.

She added: “This briefing serves as a reminder that there is currently no human rights framework for fans, players, journalists or anyone else travelling to Saudi Arabia for a sporting event.”

While accepting that doing due diligence was nigh impossible in a country like Saudi Arabia, she said: “At the same time, you don’t carry out your responsibilities just by saying: ‘If you’re going to be a fan don’t be gay.’

“And, by the way, the same goes for heterosexual fans: you can’t kiss if you win.”

A report by Forbes earlier this week said the RFEF stands to bank $43.8 million from staging the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia, of which $6.6 million is set to be handed to Barca for participating.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPER CUP-REAL MADRID-BARCELONA
Barcelona stars Marcos Alonso, Pedri, Ferran Torres, Gavi and Eric Garcia with the Supercopa trophy after beating Real Madrid in the final in January 2023.
Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

On June 28, 2023, the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Barcelona flew eight Progress Pride flags at the stadium at its training ground in a show of support for LGBTQ rights.

It was reported that Barca lost around 300,000 followers on Instagram after posting an image of the flags to its account.

In previous years, Pride flags have been flown at the club’s 99,354-capacity Nou Camp home — Europe’s largest football stadium. The stadium was being renovated last summer, so the flags were flown at the Estadi Johan Cruyff instead.

Barca plays Osasuna in the second Supercopa semifinal on Thursday. The winner will take on Real Madrid in the final on Sunday.