Russia: Fans warn anti-gay law poses 2018 World Cup violence risk

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Football fans have expressed fears over the recent anti-gay bill in Russia which follows numerous homophobic beatings and murders in the country.

The ‘homosexual propaganda’ bill, recently given final approval in the Russian State Duma, which could make the public display of homosexuality a criminal offence, punishable through imprisonment.

Now the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) has expressed anxieties that the bill’s passing could be used as a way to discriminate fans at the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. The organisation states that those attending could be persecuted or arrested simply for carrying a rainbow flag.

Ed Connell, Campaigns Officer for the organisation said: “The GFSN is very concerned that the footballing authorities see fit to award the prestigious World Cup to countries such as Russia which discriminate against the LGB&T community.

“We would urge UEFA and FIFA to demonstrate their resolve to tackle discrimination by seeking assurances that LGB&T supporters will be able to attend these events without the risk of intimidation or arrest merely because of their sexuality.”

The Gay Football Supporters’ Network has claimed that the anti-gay law is the latest of series of anti-gay events in Russia, from people losing their jobs due to their sexuality, to discriminatory government legislation, in addition to gay people being tortured and beaten to death.

The GFSN said that fans are considering cancelling their visits to the 2018 World Cup for fears over similar acts of aggression.

Mr Connell added: “We would also hope that future host applications will be scrutinized more closely so as to ensure that competitions are not awarded to countries with poor human rights records or without assurances from those countries that all members of the footballing family will be both safe and welcome.”