LGBTQ+ football fans who hold hands or kiss at Qatar World Cup won’t face arrest, FA claims

Fifa World Cup 2022 logo being projected on a building in Qatar

The Football Association (FA) has assured LGBTQ+ fans they will not face arrest for holding hands or kissing at the World Cup in Qatar.

Under the country’s penal code it continues to punish same-sex relations with up to seven years imprisonment, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with the death penalty.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham made the promise amid concerns for this safety of queers fans at this year’s event.

The promise follows Bullingham learning some fans from the LGBTQ+ community will stay away from the event due to a lack of adequate assurances around accommodation, as reported by The Independent. 

Bullingham confirmed police in Qatar had been briefed to be tolerant during the tournament. 


LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Tatchell tells PinkNews he believes Bullingham and the FA are “gullible” to believe any assurances given.

This is due to Qatar “repeatedly breaking its promises about the rights of migrant workers”, leading Tatchell to raise concerns over the country keeping promises about LGBTQ+ fans. 

In a bid to prepare for the circumstance of same-sex couples being arrested for public kissing or holding hands, Bullingham confirmed the FA has briefed authorities in Qatar ahead of the World Cup. 

“We have been asking those questions of the Qatari authorities over the last six months,” he said.

“They have absolutely told us all the right answers for anything we’ve talked about, even down to the point of ‘are rainbow flags allowed?’ Yes, absolutely (they are allowed) as long as someone doesn’t go and drape them on the outside of a mosque – that was one example we were given – and were disrespectful in that way.

“But they have absolutely been briefed to be very tolerant and act in the right way. Any time we ask a direct question we tend to get an answer.”

Peter Tatchell at Dublin Pride.

Peter Tatchell at Dublin Pride. (Provided)

But these promises mean little to Tatchell.

“This is a regime that recently confiscated rainbow coloured children’s toys in shopping malls on the grounds that they were promoting homosexuality,” he says.

“Qatar has flip-flopped on whether rainbow flags would be permitted. Under pressure from FIFA, it first said yes, then said no and is now saying yes again. Who is to say they won’t change their minds again and ban them and arrest people who display rainbow flags?”

The passionate campaigner noted that the FA isn’t paying attention to the LGBTQ+ Qataris who face arrest.

In the hope of offering solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community the FA is embracing the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign. 

England captain Harry Kane will wear a OneLove armband for the first time on Friday (23 September) night’s Nations League match against Italy.

Kane said: “As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination.”

“This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society.

“Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”

Tatchell believes the OneLove slogan is “too vague” and he slammed the design as “not a proper rainbow”, but a “deliberate mish-mash of colours to avoid the controversy of being seen to endorse LGBTQ+ equality.”

He also aired concern of its statement only mentioning LGBTQ+ fans in passing and “completely” ignoring restrictions on women’s rights. 

“The statement misleadingly suggests that Qatar has made significant improvements in conditions for migrant workers. 

“It neglects to mention unpaid wages, overcrowded slum hostels, workers who still cannot change jobs and are forced to pay illegal recruitment fees and that those who protested were recently arrested and deported. This statement is an embarrassment and whitewash.”

The FA said it is continuing to request more details on assurances given by the local organising committee that all fans – including those from the LGBTQ+ community – will be safe and welcome at the World Cup in Qatar.

Bullingham confirmed he was also lobbying football’s global governing body FIFA for an update regarding a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar and the creation of a centre to help them access support.

It follows Qatar’s ambassador to Germany being confronted with an urgent plea to abolish his country’s death penalty for homosexuality at a human rights congress.