A large majority of people in Britain think the World Cup should not be held in Qatar because of its position on LGBTQ+ rights.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, attracting punishments of up to seven years in prison. Despite this and other serious human rights concerns, Fifa members voted in 2010 to award the 2022 tournament to the Gulf state.
A survey found that 62% of British people believe Qatar’s stance on gay rights alone should have been enough to bar it from hosting, with support for that position consistent across age, gender and political persuasion. Just 24% believe the country’s laws should not have been a factor, with 14% unsure.
In addition, only 43% of Britons think the England and Wales teams are right to participate in the tournament given Qatar’s anti-gay laws. Thirty-nine per cent of all those asked believe the teams should not take part, while 18% said they didn’t know.
The World Cup, rescheduled for winter to avoid Qatar’s overwhelming summer heat, kicks off on 20 November with the hosts facing Ecuador.
The survey, conducted between 1 and 3 November by Public First for More in Common, also asked 2,030 adults whether Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, was right in planning to boycott the tournament over Qatar’s human rights record. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said he was right, with 12% disagreeing.
Starmer was asked by LBC radio last month whether he planned to attend, and said neither he nor any party colleagues would be there, even if England got to the final. “I’d love to but the human rights record is such I wouldn’t go. That would be the position of the Labour party,” he said.
The campaign group Human Rights Watch said last month that Qatari residents risked persecution if they stood up for LGBTQ+ rights, while concerns have also been raised about the safety of foreign gay fans or others showing solidarity by carrying a rainbow flag, for example.
The UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has been criticised for urging gay fans to show respect to Qatar. He said last month: “It is important when you are a visitor to a country that you respect the culture of your host nation.” In response, the TV presenter and former footballer Gary Lineker tweeted: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?”
Lucy Powell, the shadow sport secretary, called Cleverly’s comments “shockingly tone-deaf”, adding: “The government should be challenging Fifa on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.”
The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused Cleverly of “colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime”.
The poll found that 44% thought Cleverly was right to call on fans to be respectful and 34% felt he was wrong, with 24% undecided. Cleverly has said he intends to attend the tournament.
Luke Tryl, the UK director of More in Common, said: “The British public clearly thinks that Qatar’s position on LGBT rights was a reason not to award the World Cup to that country … The clear message from the public to Fifa is that in picking future tournament venues, human rights considerations should be front and centre.”,