Dear President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association, Mr. Infantino,
The football men’s World Cup in Qatar has only just started, and the credibility of FIFA in its commitment to human rights is already entirely questionable. There are 28 more days to go, and ILGA World - a global LGBTI human rights organisation representing more than 1,800 members in over 160 countries and territories worldwide – and ILGA Asia, its Asian region - call on you to rectify this and change course.
Many LGBTQ football fans from all over the world have been left wondering whether they could have made their way to safely enjoy the games. It only took a few days for all the past contradictory and ambiguous reassurances -made both by FIFA, and the Qatari Supreme Committee - to crumble under the weight of appalling statements and actions
Three days into the World Cup, and we have already seen players being threatened with sanctions over One Love armbands, put in a difficult position to choose between solidarity or fairness to the game. We saw security guards violating press freedom and freedom of expression in one single move, barring a journalist from entering a stadium as he was wearing a rainbow-themed t-shirt, before finally letting him in. Similar fate awaited other fans, too. Meanwhile, the echo of your questionable speech trying to defend Qatar’s human rights record has not dispersed yet.
FIFA developed a Sustainability Strategy for the World Cup, which however falls short of meaningfully mentioning the rights of LGBTQ peoples. Despite the presence of an independent human rights working group, demands have been left unanswered. And now, actions are speaking louder than words and earlier assurances: freedom of expression and non-discrimination are not being upheld during this World Cup.
This goes well beyond the host country: this is also about FIFA and its commitment to human rights for all. The organisation recognises non-discrimination as central to its operations both in its statutes and Human Rights Policy, but it is continuously missing the mark on its enforcement.
Despite the many meetings that FIFA held over the years with human rights organisations, and the commitments that were made, what is happening is extremely concerning and should be addressed with the utmost urgency.
If sport has the power to bring people together in equality, this men’s World Cup is failing spectacularly. We trust that FIFA will change course from now on, do all in its power to meaningfully commit to human rights for all, and rebuild trust that these days and months have so seriously tarnished .
Executive Director, ILGA World
Executive Director, ILGA Asia