Foreign secretary James Cleverly says LGBTQ+ football fans at the World Cup should ‘compromise’ with Qatar laws

Collage of James Cleverly, the World Cup trophy and a rainbow

Foreign secretary James Cleverly has urged football fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to be “respectful” of the host nation.

Speaking to LBC on Wednesday (26 October), Cleverly asked fans to be flexible and “compromise” with the country, which has faced criticism for its laws against homosexuality, and reports of abuse against LGBTQ+ people in recent weeks.

When asked by LBC host Nick Ferrari about Peter Tatchell, an activist who was allegedly arrested in Qatar while protesting the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights, Cleverly said he hasn’t spoken directly with the Qatari government about the case.

“I haven’t spoken with the government of Qatar in direct response to Peter Tatchell, but my understanding is that he was questioned,” he said.

“I have spoken to the Qatari authorities in the past about gay football fans going to watch the World Cup and how they will treat our fans and international fans.

“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.

“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation… with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”

He confirmed to Ferrari that he will be travelling to Qatar to the World Cup “if I am able”.

Cleverly was criticised for his comments, however, with Labour MP Nadia Whittome tweeting that LGBTQ+ people cannot “compromise” when it comes to safety.

“This morning on LBC, foreign secretary James Cleverly told LGBTQ football fans to ‘be respectful’ and ‘compromise’ during the World Cup in Qatar,” she wrote.

“What exactly is the respectful middle ground between LGBTQ people who want to be safe and a regime that puts them in prison?”

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LGBTQ+ football fans have been repeatedly reassured that they will be able to attend the World Cup in Qatar safely, with FIFA stating that it has a “strategic programme of concrete measures” in place for the event.

FIFA told PinkNews in a statement: “Qatar is committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, to building bridges of cultural understanding and to creating an inclusive experience for all participants and attendees, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

“FIFA is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTIQ+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as for everyone else.”

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