FIFA’s anti-discrimination advisers are warning gay football fans that will be in attendance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia of aggressive response from intolerant locals.
Anti-gay sentiment in Russia remains strong despite homosexuality being decriminalised in 1993, especially after a law was introduced in 2013 that prohibited the dissemination to minors of “propaganda” that legitimised homosexuality.
The World Cup draw takes place on Friday, and the FARE network, which is an umbrella organisation that “works across all levels of the game to advance social inclusion of marginalised and disenfranchised groups and to engage policymakers, key players and governing bodies in the anti-discrimination movement”, said that it would take out a guide that lists the threats that fans should prepare for in Russia.
“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community,” FARE executive director Piara Powar said.
“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.”
FARE has also written to the football governing body on behalf of two fans’ groups from Britain and Germany, to ask for permission to raise a rainbow flag inside stadiums during the World Cup. Even though political displays are not allowed inside the stadium, it is understood that the governing body would not consider rainbow flags to fall into that category, and fans would be welcome to wave them.
However, FIFA diversity head, Federico Addiechi, said that no written request from fan groups on whether gay pride flags could be unfurled had been made.
“There’s nothing in the regulation from FIFA that prevents anyone from entering the stadiums with non-political messages,” he added.
The World Cup draw takes place on Friday at the Kremlin. Indeed, fears of homophobia, hooliganism and racism prove fearsome and may deter some supporters from travelling to Russia.