Comment: Russia must be barred from holding the 2018 World Cup because of its anti-gay law

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Writing for PinkNews, James Lavin says Russia should not be allowed to host the 2018 World Cup because of human rights violations against the LGBT community.

On Thursday 2 December 2010, FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Venues. They are Sochi, Russia and Qatar, Saudi Arabia.

The 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, amidst controversy surrounding its violation of human rights, most notable toward the LGBTQ Community since Vladimir Putin pushed through an anti-gay law. His ban on the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, effectively makes it illegal to suggest that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships, or to distribute material on gay rights.

Since that time, despite promises of safety to athletes and tourists, official arrests have taken place but no promises were made to their own citizens. More terrifyingly, militia groups such as Occupy Paedophilia have sprung up across Russia believing they now have the right to brutally torture and even murder people they believe to be gay.

On 3 February 2014, in a rare move for the Russian government, three men were recently convicted of murder citing homophobia as the cause. The victim was lured to a remote forest, stabbed and beaten to death before being placed in the trunk of a car which was set ablaze in an attempt to conceal such a heinous crime.

On 19 February, the infamous members of Pussy Riot were beaten by Cossacks with horse whips for attempting to perform a song beneath an advertisement for the Sochi Olympics. They, along with a male supporter, after being brutally flogged, were dragged away with some members of the group being forcefully unmasked.

At a cost of $51 billion (£30 billion), the XXII Games are the most expensive to date. Assuming that Russia recoups these costs, virtually all of the monies received from 2018 ticket sales, sponsorship and tourism will be profit. Russia is building its economy on projected incomes from both of these events.

Although the South African Apartheid lasted 23 years, economic sanctions proved useful in the fight against racial oppression. To remove the prospect of further income from major sporting events would seriously damage Russia’s outlook at a financial level. Putin would have no choice but to listen to the rest of the world and reconsider his approach to LGBTQ and other encompassing Human Rights in order to maintain a competitive standing in foreign markets.

Football is rife with homophobia and racism. FIFA has a responsibility to tackle this not just within its own teams, but within football in general. Football v. Homophobia, a UK organisation dedicated to highlighting and promoting better attitudes, has worked with clubs at a championship level to raise funds and awareness. There is still a long way to go.

In recent times, prominent sports people have been overcoming the stigma attached to their sexualities. Former NBA player John Amaechi, Olympic Diver Tom Daley, football players Thomas Hitslsperger and Casey Stoney have all stood strong, publicly declaring their deviation from what is considered to be the norm.

Most recently and perhaps most controversial, NFL player Michael Sams undertook a brave step forward by coming outas his career is just beginning. Despite conjecture that his career would be over his teammates are wholly supporting him.

National debate was sparked and a majority of NFL players adamantly proclaimed they would have no issues playing alongside someone who is openly gay.

The FIFA award to Russia was actioned 18 months prior to the inception of Putin’s despicable anti-gay laws. There are still 4 years until the 2018 World Cup is due to take place. The International Football Association (FIFA) have no excuses for not coming forward, supporting the most basic of human rights and withdrawing any and all support to such infringements.

On the contrary, they are obligated to stand up, make a stance and declare enough is enough. The leading body in football should in no way endorse teams or any country that blatantly oppresses others. The same should be said to Qatar in 2022.

After the announcement of Putin’s law last summer, a petition was set up to request a relocation of the games. Sadly it was inevitable they would go ahead due to time constraints. Stephen Fry and George Takei vehemently endorsed the petition which garnered 175,000 signatures in just a few short days.

Now a new campaign is attempting to raise 1,000,000 signatures to demand FIFA take action against Russia. Add your voice, support  it on Facebook and tweet your dismay using #fifa2018.

James Lavin tweets at @CampaignJames and has a dedicated Facebook for the cause.

As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.