James Cleverly says LGBTQ+ World Cup fans should ‘respect law’ of Qatar

UK foreign secretary says it is his job to ensure UK visitors stay safe as he defends attending the tournament

James Cleverly has told LGBTQ+ football fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to “respect the law” of the host country, as the foreign secretary defended attending the tournament himself.

While Cleverly said he understood why some people were uncomfortable with Qatar holding the event, which begins on 20 November, he said it was “my job to make sure those people who do visit stay safe”.

Concerns have been raised over the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ fans who will travel to support England and Wales in the World Cup, given that same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar.

Tournament organisers have warned against public displays of affection, though have also claimed that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome.

Cleverly said he had spoken to the Qataris about their legislation on homosexuality. He told MPs on the foreign affairs committee that while “we would always promote not just tolerance, but a real embracement of diversity”, the “default setting” for any Briton travelling overseas should be to “respect the laws of their host countries”.

Challenged over his own attendance by the Labour backbencher Chris Bryant, who is gay, Cleverly said he was going “for a number of reasons”. “Because I’m the foreign secretary and it is my job to ensure British visitors stay safe,” he said.

“I’ve visited Qatar in the lead-up to the World Cup, and when I get to the World Cup I will be speaking to the security authorities to ensure that English and Welsh – or whatever other British fans might be going to the World Cup – remain safe.”

Cleverly added: “I understand there will be people uncomfortable with Qatar hosting the World Cup, I get that – but my job is to make sure those people who do visit stay safe.”

Bryant said he did not think anyone should be attending the World Cup “apart from the teams”, and said gay men in Qatar had been entrapped by police and sent to prison.

Alicia Kearns, a Tory MP and the new chair of the foreign affairs committee, said Cleverly should be more robust about telling Fifa that “we expect to see an end of the giving of World Cups to … countries where our people are fundamentally unsafe.”


Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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