The England national team’s largest LGBTQ+ supporters’ group has suggested that David Beckham should no longer be considered a great ally or placed on a pedestal after becoming a paid ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
Di Cunningham, the co-founder of the Three Lions Pride group, said she was disappointed in Beckham’s decision to accept a deal – reported to be worth £150m – given that Qatari law criminalises same-sex relationships.
Cunningham was one among those who travelled to Russia for the World Cup in 2018. However, she said that Three Lions Pride would not go to Qatar because there was “no sign – as there was in Russia – of any appetite to relax or review the toxic environment there is for LGBTQ+ and other minority groups”.
Speaking at a Sport & Rights Alliance press briefing on Wednesday, Cunningham also praised those players who had spoken out in favour of LGBT+ rights in Qatar, before turning her focus on to Beckham, a former England captain.
“One of the difficulties is having people taking the money in order to promote Qatar and the World Cup,” she said. “I’m just so disappointed because we – the LGBTQ+ football family – have put David Beckham on a pedestal, as a great ally.
“And then it turns out that he’s taking a lot of money to be an ambassador for this World Cup, and that’s incredibly disappointing. So I really hope that the message has got through that people will be criticised for that.”
Meanwhile, Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch urged Fifa to never again go to a country that does not uphold basic human rights. “Athletes are effectively hostages,” she warned. “They are lashed to the ship of Fifa and they have to go wherever the World Cup or the Club World Cup goes. And I think for many fans, athletes and others, the last decade has been a very bitter lesson.”
Worden also called for a human rights framework to be put in place for future bids before adding: “There can never again be a World Cup that does not uphold basic human rights and puts athletes whose job is their place of work in the invidious position of having to fear for their identity.
“We should never again have a World Cup that fails to respect basic human rights and has none of the expected assurances and protections.”