International soccer association FIFA may suspend the anti-gay laws in Russia and Qatar during the World Cup.
Gay football fans are fearing they will be arrested, beaten up or even deported if they visit Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
A top soccer pundit has claimed the President of FIFA is planning to ensure any gay tourist or footballer will be protected from homophobic laws.
In Russia, the lower house of parliament has passed a ‘non-traditional relationships’ propaganda law. If the upper house passes it, homophobia will be legal and gay rights as well as organizations will be banned.
In Qatar, you can be jailed for up to three years for gay sex.
Speaking to Gay Star News, Gay Football Supporter’s Network chair Chris Basiurski said he had spoken to FIFA president Sepp Blatter about the issue.
He said: ‘[Blatter] made a very strong point to me as I told him people are concerned about whether they’re going to be safe.
‘He said “The football community is for everybody”. He was strong on that point.’
In 2010, the FIFA president caused controversy when he said gay people should ‘refrain from sexual activity’ when they are visiting Qatar for the World Cup.
Basiurski said it is likely FIFA, when they are in Qatar and Russia, will overtake the law of the land and set out their own rules and regulations.
He compared it to South Africa World Cup 2010, when FIFA set up its own criminal courts.
‘They would do something similar. When they are there everyone will be protected due to FIFA’s laws,’ Basiurski noted.
‘This could mean any regulation FIFA brings in might end up breaking the law of the land.’
Basiurski said he hoped football could be used as a way for social change in Russia and Qatar.
He added: ‘While the risks of Russia may not be quite as legally difficult as Qatar, where gay sex is outright illegal, the consequences could be quite tough.
‘Anyone going there and raising a red flag could be subject to abuse, physically assaulted and not protected by authorities.
‘It’s concerning FIFA has chosen these countries where it’s on the table.’
Basiurski said it is unlikely the World Cup would be taken away from Qatar or Russia, but now that it has happened, the gay community needs to be vigilant over other possible bids.
‘I can see there being a boycott, and officials saying you need to be careful,’ he said.
‘The thing is you shouldn’t have to be watching your back. But unfortunately the way things stand we might have to.’
In a statement made to GSN, FIFA said they hoped staging the World Cup in Russia and Qatar would help to ‘improve social conditions and make a difference in societies.’
In the FIFA statute, it states ‘Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.’
They said: ‘There are other cultures and other religions, but in football we have no boundaries.
‘FIFA believes there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings.’
Andy Wasley, from UK-based gay rights group Stonewall, said: ‘If FIFA really does care about fans’ safety, it has to condemn homophobia directly and vigorously – and it must challenge World Cup hosts’ records on tackling anti-gay abuse.’