LGBT fans ‘at risk’ during World Cup, MPs warn

An influential Parliamentary committee has issued a dire warning about safety of LGBT fans at the World Cup in Russia.

The World Cup, which is taking place in Russia later this month, has been marred by threats of violence towards LGBT fans from the country’s homophobic ultra-nationalist factions.

The Russian government had assured FIFA that everyone would be safe at the contest – but concerns for safety have led to guidance encouraging gay fans to conceal their sexuality at the contest.

The UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee today (June 8) published a report on the safety of fans at the World Cup, noting the extreme risk to individuals identifiable as LGBT.

Russian riot policemen walk with dogs as they take part in special security exercises at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium (Krestovsky Stadium) in Saint Petersburg on April 20, 2018 (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty)

The report states: “LGBT individuals in Russia not only face the risk of violence from vigilante groups, but lack adequate protection from the state.

“The far-right culture of Russian hooligan groups could place LGBT fans at particular risk of violence during the World Cup.

“Pride in Football, an alliance of LGBT fan groups, gave us copies of two threatening emails it had received that used homophobic language, and warned that LGBT people would not be welcome in Russia for the tournament. One made explicit threats of violence, and included an image of a knife.”

The email states: “Salut children of sluts! We await you in Russia! I will personally put to a knife your members faggots.”

The report adds: “Russia’s World Cup Local Organising Committee has been sent the emails, but has not yet responded.”

Russian riot policemen take part in special security exercises at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium (Krestovsky Stadium) in Saint Petersburg on April 20, 2018 (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty)

The MPs also expressed fears that the country’s Orwellian gay ‘propaganda’ law could be used to clamp down on any LGBT fans who attempt to protest or fly rainbow flags at the event.

The report continues: “The FCO told us that it had received assurances from the Russian football association regarding the display of the rainbow flag in football grounds.

“However, the [Football Supporters’ Federation] said that Russian LGBT groups had advised them to take these assurances ‘with a pinch of salt’.

“Stonewall also told us that LGBT groups in Russia ‘have questioned whether fans who raise the rainbow flag at World Cup matches will be safe’, and pointed out that the former chair of the Russian LGBT Network was detained while holding a rainbow flag at a demonstration on 1 May.”

MPs also said the UK government had been “vague” abont the nature of assurances it has had from Russia, with Minister Harriet Baldwin failing to state that “she had confidence in the ability and willingness of the Russian police to keep UK nationals safe.”

A general view of the Luzhniki stadium on August 29, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Lars Baron/Getty)

The section concludes: “Russia presents particular risks as a World Cup host, due to the history of violence by football hooligans; intolerance and discriminatory state policy towards LGBT individuals.

“We remain concerned about the safety of UK fans travelling to Russia, and the apparent lack of specific provisions to protect targeted groups, particularly LGBT football fans.

“The Committee calls on the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] to set out, clearly and publicly, the specific assurances it has received from the Russian authorities on the safety of LGBT fans, including on how the ‘anti-propaganda’ law will be applied to foreign visitors, so that fans can make an informed decision based on the level of risk to which they will be exposed.

“LGBT fans should have as much information as possible on the extent to which they can expect to be safe if, for example, flying the rainbow flag, engaging in public displays of affection, or using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.”