Fears World Cup will not deliver change in Qatar amid LGBTQ+ supporter concerns

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Hosting the World Cup will not deliver meaningful change in Qatar, a senior MP has said, amid ongoing concerns over the Gulf state’s response to LGBTQ+ symbols.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said “nothing about their behaviour has changed” since the country was awarded the hosting rights in 2010.

Fans have reported having rainbow items, including T-shirts and Wales bucket hats, confiscated by officials in Qatar during the tournament.

Wales striker Kieffer Moore has said he is aware that Fifa and the Football Association of Wales (FAW) are still investigating the incidents, adding: “Hopefully that doesn’t happen in the next game.”

The FAW – one of seven national federations to abandon plans to wear the “One Love” armbands after they were threatened with sporting sanctions – said they were “extremely disappointed” by the reports.

Rainbow-coloured corner flags emblazoned with the Welsh dragon appeared on the team’s training pitch in Al-Sadd, Doha, on Wednesday.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Qatar has ‘taken real steps’ to ensure that ‘gay football fans are safe and do feel secure’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

But several LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the tournament in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

Downing Street said it is closely monitoring the treatment of UK fans at the World Cup.

Rutland and Melton MP Ms Kearns, when asked about her hopes for the tournament to deliver change in Qatar, told the PA news agency: “Yes, we should always be hopeful, but I do not meaningfully believe that holding the World Cup in Qatar is going to change anything on the ground.

“Because if it was going to, we wouldn’t have seen human rights abuses taking place, there wouldn’t have been the loss of life that we’ve seen taking place.

“Qatar has shown since it received the nomination to hold (the World Cup) that nothing about their behaviour has changed domestically or even regards to workers.

“So I really don’t think, unfortunately – and I wish this was not the case – that we can have any hope that things will meaningfully change.”

Mr Cleverly said gay rights is an issue he has “brought up over a number of years” with Qatar.

He told the BBC: “I’ve made it clear that we feel very strongly about this issue and, actually, one of the advantages about having a strong relationship with other countries is you can have these difficult conversations.

“The Qataris know how seriously we take this issue and they have taken real steps to ensure that gay football fans are safe and do feel secure and can enjoy the football.”

Sunday Morning
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said he was ‘shocked and saddened’ about reports of fans having rainbow items confiscated (Aaron Chown/PA)

“It doesn’t feel to me to be in the spirit of the World Cup, from the reports that I’ve read.”

“But I do also believe in the universal power of sport to bring people together,” he added.

“This is the first Muslim country to host the World Cup.

“People there are able to have those difficult conversations about human rights abuses, about the treatment of migrant workers, to campaign, to make their voices heard.

“I think that’s right, and the international community is raising its voice in relation to these issues.”

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford attended his country’s opening game against the USA, although the Welsh delegation will boycott the Iran game before making an appearance for the final Group B fixture with England.

On the pitch, England fans are sweating on the fitness of Harry Kane as the captain prepares to undergo an ankle scan ahead of the Three Lions’ second game with the USA on Friday.

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