James Cleverly has told LGBTQ+ fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to be “respectful of the host nation” in order to stay safe there.
This year’s tournament has been marred with controversy since it was announced that it would take place in the Gulf state, where homosexuality is illegal and the LGBTQ+ community is subjected to discriminatory laws.
The newly appointed Foreign Secretary told LBC that he had “spoken to the Qatari authorities” about “how they will treat our fans and international fans.”
“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that that means 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,” Cleverly continued.
“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation. They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”
'Please do be respectful of the host nation.'
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told LBC this morning that with a bit of 'compromise' from football fans, the World Cup in Qatar can be a 'safe and exciting event'.@NickFerrariLBC | @JamesCleverly pic.twitter.com/8q4XDHfL6H
— LBC (@LBC) October 26, 2022
His comments come just days after the Human Rights Watch reported cases of LGBTQ+ people being detained and subjected to “ill-treatment in detention” in Qatar as recently as last month.
There were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” reported, as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”
This is despite the Football Association assuring fans that they will not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public at the World Cup in November.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome condemned Cleverly’s comments, asking: “What exactly is the respectful middle ground between LGBTQ people who want to be safe and a regime that puts them in prison?”
This morning on LBC, Foreign Secretary @JamesCleverly told LGBTQ football fans to “be respectful” and “compromise” during the World Cup in Qatar.
What exactly is the respectful middle ground between LGBTQ people who want to be safe and a regime that puts them in prison?
— Nadia Whittome MP (@NadiaWhittomeMP) October 26, 2022
Lucy Powell, the Shadow Culture Secretary, added: “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.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place from 20 November – 18 December this year.