The football World Cup is set to kick off in Russia this year, held in a country which openly opposes homosexuals and other ethnic backgrounds. FIFA has handed football’s most illustrious cup to a country in which there is no guarantee over fan safety and the preservation of human rights.
After the draw for the group stages took place on the 1st of December, everyone’s eyes have turned to the excitement of this year’s tournament. As anticipation builds for the arrival of some of the world’s best with Spain, Brazil and even England looking threatening – a large group of fans will feel unwelcome to support their nations. Little has been done to help LGBT fans facing a barrage of prejudice and antagonism on their arrival.
The discrimination in Russia against LGBT rights is extreme in comparison to British society. FARE, football’s world governing body for operating the anti-discrimination monitoring system, is producing a guide on how Black, Asian, minority ethnic groups and LGBT supporters should behave out in public during the tournament. A guide on how human beings should act in order to avoid violence from bigots, in a country deemed “safe” enough to hold the most prestigious football tournament in the world. How has FIFA allowed this to happen?
“two-thirds of sports fans in England said more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport.”
The rainbow laces campaign in the Premier League showed the support that LGBT is gaining in the sport. To have to change people’s mannerisms in the public sphere to be accepted in a different country counters everything the movement stands for. Stonewall, a campaign group for LGBT, found that almost two-thirds of sports fans in England said more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport.
FIFA’s self-stated vision is to ‘bring the game to all’. Their statement of inclusivity is that ‘FIFA will reflect the world and the communities in which it operates,’ yet to hold the biggest tournament for the most popular sport in the world in a country which is openly against these rights contradicts all efforts to establish equality in society.
The gay propaganda law passed in 2013 in Russia specifically underlines that content presenting homosexuality as a norm in society is illegal as it contradicts family values. A law which President Vladimir Putin himself signed into legislation. The invitation for fans to Russia is therefore limited by the prehistoric and outdated views of the country dubiously earning the right to host the World Cup.
“Such a heavily discriminatory country hosting the cup will undoubtedly damage the competition, taking attention off the magnificence of the football stars and placing it on maintaining fan safety”
FIFA’s disciplinary code specifically outlaws abuse concerning race, colour, language, religion or origin, with spectators punished with a fine of at least £23,000 for the relevant national association, with ejection from the World Cup the ultimate punishment. Measures such as this are futile. When the president of a powerful nation like Russia signs a gay propaganda law it conveys the mass feelings towards these communities and the subsequent reception they’ll receive. By signing the law, Putin has presented homosexuality as abnormal, so how can LGBT fans feel secure in Russia when their citizens will equally view them in this way?
However, it isn’t just LGBT fans who face this discrimination; the Confederations Cup was held in Russia in 2017 in which Russians paraded in the city of Sochi in black face with bananas around their necks before Cameroon’s matches at the confederations cup. Such a heavily discriminatory country hosting the cup will undoubtedly damage the competition, taking attention off the magnificence of the football stars and placing it on maintaining fan safety, which cannot be guaranteed.
Whilst FARE have said that they will have in-stadium crowd monitors at each of the World Cup games, tasked with spotting any displays of a breach in regulations on racism, political extremism and homophobia, they will have difficulty monitoring the event outside of the stadiums. The World Cup is a celebration aside from the actual matches, yet fans could be in danger by simply walking down the street holding hands.
Homosexual and transgender fans will be forced to hide their personality through fear, facing possible negative reactions in some host cities and at some times of day. This is completely inadequate for a host nation in the 21st century, and a step backwards for human rights. The question of what FIFA prioritise as a country eligible to host the tournament has been thrown up into the air. It has become clear that countries who have the most money are favoured over countries where every person, no matter of their sexuality or ethnic background, will be accepted to enjoy the sport.