Gay groups’ anger at ‘homophobic’ World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar

Gay groups have said they are “deeply concerned” by FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and can be punished with lashes and jail, while the Russian capital of Moscow has banned gay Pride marches for years.

England got just two votes in yesterday’s contest to host the World Cup in 2018, despite submitting a strong bid.

There have been calls for a probe into possible corruption at the international football governing body and some media outlets pointed to two countries’ riches in oil and gold.

Russia’s win came on the same day it was denounced by leaked diplomatic cables for being a “corrupt autocracy”.

Gay rights campaigners also questioned the countries’ human rights records, saying that

Peter Tatchell, who was savagely beaten by neo-Nazi thugs on a Pride march in Moscow in 2007, said: “Both countries have very poor human rights records. Not just on gay rights, but also on the rights of women, the freedom to protest and freedom of the press.

“Sport should never be allowed to trump human rights. FIFA have put their corporate interests before the wellbeing of the people of Russia and Qatar.”

Gay football group The Justin Campaign added that it was “deeply concerned” and said: “Despite their apparent commitment to humanitarian values and the promotion of global solidarity through football, FIFA is sending out a message loud and clear that the rights of the global LGBT community do not even register on their agenda.

“It is a stark and sad reminder of just how much work we still need to do.”

Meanwhile, Matthew Sephton of Conservative-affiliated group LGBTory said FIFA should ask Qatar to decriminalise homosexuality by 2022.

He said: “Now that this decision has been taken, I would like to set the challenge to FIFA and the FA to be a force for good and also to get its own house in order. I hope that between now and 2022 Qatar will take steps to decriminalise homosexuality and that FIFA can help bring this about.

“The Rugby Football League has set the pace by recently launching their ‘tackle it’ campaign to challenge homophobia in their sport. Football should follow this important lead by their rugby counterparts and prove that they too believe there is no place for homophobia in any sport.”