David Beckham ‘signs £10m deal to become face of Qatar’, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be gay

David Beckham with Nasser al-Khelaifi, chairman of Qatar Sports Investments

David Beckham has reportedly signed a lucrative deal to become an ambassador for Qatar, despite the country’s continued persecution of LGBT+ people.

Beckham signed a £10m deal with Qatar to become the country’s ambassador in the lead-up to it hosting next year’s World Cup, according to a report by The Mail on Sunday.

Such a move would appear to fly in the face of Beckham’s allyship with the LGBT+ community. The football star announced in 2007 he was “very honoured to have the tag of gay icon”.

Homosexuality is completely outlawed in Qatar and is punishable by imprisonment or flogging. According to a 2019 article in Forbes, the Middle Eastern country is the second most dangerous country in the world for LGBT+ people.

Sources told the paper that Beckham has been assured that Qatar is “relaxing its policy” on LGBT+ persecution in the country. 

The Mail on Sunday reported that talks between Beckham’s advisors and the Qatari committee in charge of World Cup preparations have been ongoing for at least a year. It’s believed that they’ve settled on a “personal deal” with Beckham. 

One Qatari source told The Mail on Sunday the detail is supposed to be “top secret” and is being kept quiet until there is an opportunity to “land it without David’s PR being affected too much”. The source added: “Well, that’s the hope anyway. 

“Qatar is very much in his hands. 

“There are concerns about his reputation, but there is enough money on the table for the optics not to matter so much.”

Another source said: “David has so many big-money deals, you do wonder why he would want one like this.”

Currently, the Qatari penal code criminalises same-sex intercourse with a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment.

Qatar also criminalises “leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy” with a penalty of between one and three years imprisonment. 

Additionally, Qatar operates Sharia courts in which it is technically possible for gay men to be sentenced to death, though IGLA reported it doesn’t “appear that any person has been executed for this reason or at all”. 

But Beckham is closely tied to Qatar. He frequently visits the country and ended his playing career with Qatar-owned French team Paris Saint-Germain in 2013. He’s also close friends with the club’s president, Nasser-Al Khelaifi, and the pair have been seen together at football matches in recent years.

Calls to decriminalise homosexuality before the 2022 World Cup.

In August 2019, an international risk consultancy called on RTE and other broadcasters to put pressure on Qatar to suspend anti-homosexuality laws before the 2022 World Cup is staged there.

Cornerstone Global Associates said Qatar would be the first modern host of a World Cup tournament to have banned homosexuality and made it punishable by a prison sentence. 

The consultancy said sponsors and official broadcasters of the World Cup face reputational risks from being associated with a tournament staged in a country whose laws discriminated against the LGBT+ community. 

Ghanem Nuseibeh, the founder of Cornerstone, told The Times Qatar’s anti-homosexuality law would create a “PR nightmare” for sponsors and broadcasters. He suggested RTE and others should “protect their brand”. 

He also said LGBT+ employees of sponsors and broadcasters due to work at the World Cup might fear arrest. They could then have a legitimate claim for discrimination against their employer.

Qatar recently said it will allow Pride flags to be flown at the 2022 World Cup – but the starkly homophobic country will still expect visitors to respect its “culture”. Qatar’s World Cup leadership team has assured Fifa that pro-LGBT+ displays will not be removed – including Pride flags.