Fan told to take down rainbow England flag at Russian World Cup

The fan was told by a steward that he wasn’t allowed to display his flag in the stadium.

Having just completed his exams, Joe White travelled to Russia for the FIFA World Cup.

White arrived in Moscow on June 22, ahead of the match between England and Panama.

There he met up with friend Di Cunningham – the pair co-founded 3 Lions Pride, a football fan group for LGBT England supporters, both in the UK and abroad.

Speaking to PinkNews, White says that initially the stewards were on board with the idea of putting up his rainbow-coloured England flag.

Just moments before the flag was taken down (Joe White)

“We went in to the stadium and, with steward assistance, put the banner up just behind the goal,” he recalls.

But once White and Cunningham returned to their seats in the stadium, they were informed that their flag had been removed.

A fellow friend, who was also watching the match in the stadium, messaged the pair to say that the flag had been removed by stewards.

Shocked by this, White and Cunningham contacted FIFA.

“We have a good relationship with the diversity section at FIFA and had been told to contact them if any issues arose,” says White.

The pair sent messages to their contacts at FIFA, hoping that they might be able to reverse the decision.

Luzhniki stadium, Russian (Lars Baron/Getty)

“Those colours are not permitted in the stadium,” a Russian supervisor told White.

Fortunately for White and his fellow LGBT fans in the stadium, the supervisor’s decision was eventually overruled by FIFA.

15 minutes late, the flag was put back up in time for the match.

White credits his friend for keeping calm during this “frustrating, disappointing and stressful” situation.

This experience has spurred White and his co-founder to continue advocating for the rights of LGBT football fans.

Earlier this year, LGBT fans had expressed concerns about travelling to Russia to watch their teams play.

A photograph taken on May 30, 2018 shows the FIFA World Cup 2018 flag in front of the Kremlin in Moscow. - The FIFA World Cup 2018 tournament kicks off on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The FIFA World Cup is in Russia for the first time (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty)

Russia remains an unsafe country for many LGBT people.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, but homophobia in the country remains rife.

The country’s notorious ‘gay propaganda’ law means that LGBT issues are often silenced in the country, with anybody daring to speak openly about homosexuality facing legal consequences.

Despite this ordeal, White will be continuing with his travel plans in Russia.