FIFA’s anti-discrimination advisers, Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare), warned LGBTQ fans going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia that displays of affection could receive a negative response from locals.
Homosexuality has been legal in Russia since 1993, however, discrimination remains strong after a law prohibiting distribution of propaganda legitimizing homosexuality to minors was introduced in 2013.
Russian Football Union official and former Chelsea player, Alexei Smertin, clarified that LGBTQ fans will not face prosecution despite the country’s gay propaganda law.
Russian Football Union's anti-discrimination officer Alexey Smertin insists displaying LGBT flags will be ok at World Cup. Points out Russian law only applies to promoting homosexuality to minors #WorldCupDraw #RainbowLaces #Russia2018 pic.twitter.com/CAmeMZKp2L— Dan Salisbury-Jones (@dsj_itv) 30 November 2017
Rainbow flags will be allowed
In order to highlight the rights of LGBTQ supporters, rainbow flags and other allusive paraphernalia will be allowed at the stadiums.
“There will definitely be no ban on wearing rainbow symbols in Russia,” said Smertin .
“It’s clear you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings. The law is about propaganda to minors. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to go into a school and propagate that way to children.”
Fare’s executive director, Piara Powar, welcomed Smertin’s remarks.
“He’s giving some reassurances and that’s all that people want. People want to know that they can come here safely, that they will be protected, that they are wanted.”
Fare will draw up a guide for football fans
Fare, a network set up to counter discrimination in European football that has received backing from both UEFA and FIFA, will produce a guide advising fans how to stay safe during the World Cup.
'The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community,' Powar said.
"The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans – do go to the World Cup but be cautious. If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so – that depends on which city they are in and the time of day.”
In order to prevent incidents during the World Cup, FIFA will place anti-discrimination observers in the stadiums.
This method was first applied at the Confederations Cup earlier this year, without major incidents occurring.
Prior to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that gay people wouldn’t be subjected to harassment, as long as they stayed away from children.
'We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations,' said Putin back in 2014. 'You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please,' said Putin.