Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham has said he has been assured LGBTQ+ fans in England will not be arrested for holding hands in public at the World Cup in Qatar.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in the Gulf state, raising concerns among the LGBTQ+ community for their safety at the finals this winter.
Bullingham says he was told that some fans in the community would stay away because they simply didn’t have time to receive adequate accommodation assurances.
But he said Qatar police had been made aware of the tolerance during the tournament under the enabling law introduced for the final, where minor offenses will not be prosecuted.
Asked if the FA had foreseen the scenario of an England fan being arrested for holding hands in public, Bullingham said: “We have been asking the Qatari authorities these questions over the last six months.
“They absolutely gave us all the right answers for everything we talked about, even down to ‘are rainbow flags allowed?’
“Yes, absolutely (they’re allowed) as long as someone doesn’t go and drape them outside a mosque – that’s an example we’ve been given – and been disrespectful in that way.
“But they were absolutely told to be very tolerant and to act in the right way. Whenever we ask a direct question, we tend to get an answer.
However, the FA continues to seek further details of the assurances given by the local organizing committee that all fans, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, will be welcome, safe and secure in Qatar.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Qatar – even between men and women – and are not part of the local culture.
The FA has joined nine other European federations in joining the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign. As part of this, England captain Harry Kane will wear an armband supporting the campaign at the finals this winter, along with the skippers of the other eight European listed nations whose teams have qualified.
“As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we are united against all forms of discrimination,” Kane said.
“It is all the more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching. »
Bullingham said his organization was also pressing the game’s world governing body, FIFA, for an update on a compensation scheme for migrant workers in Qatar and the creation of a center to help such workers access support.
“We continue to push for the principle of compensation for the families of migrant workers who have lost their lives or been injured in construction projects,” he said.
“Once again, we ask FIFA to provide an update on the compensation fund which has always been described as a safety net where workers and their families have not been able to obtain compensation from the companies of construction.”
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have called on FIFA to set aside US$440m (£388m) to back a compensation fund and help set up a center for migrant workers .
The amount is equivalent to the prize money offered to the teams during the World Cup.