Member of LGBTQ+ community argues it's 'counterproductive' to boycott World Cup
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Featured Image Credit: Britton&Time/Peter Kováč / Alamy Stock Photo
The World Cup kicks off this weekend in Qatar, which will see 32 different countries taking part in football matches across 29 days of the event.
And while the qualifying nations are rallying themselves to compete, others have decided to take a stand against FIFA for allowing the World Cup to be run in a country that not only criminalises same-sex relationships but also where the death penalty can be imposed as a result of simply loving who you love.
The hashtag #BoycottQatar has dominated Twitter and Instagram in recent moments, while the same phrase can be found on TikTok and was even broadcast by fans holding banners during football games in France and Germany.
The country has a penalty ‘of up to seven years’ imprisonment’ for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have intercourse with a person of the same sex, as well as operating a version of Sharia law, which means it is possible for men who are intimate with another man to be sentenced to death.
But others believe that if everyone who identified as or are allies of the LGBTQ+ community boycotted the World Cup, then there would be no representation at all.
Paul Britton, who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, told UNILAD that it would be ‘counterproductive’ to shun the event completely.
“It would be counterproductive to boycott the World Cup in Qatar. By boycotting you lose the opportunity to give these important issues the stage they deserve and encourage countries like Qatar to step up and do the right thing, by these people of all genders and sexuality,” Britton, the managing director of Britton&Time told us.
Britton asked: “Are we going to end up in a situation where the West dictates that countries who don’t agree with every single policy then, therefore, can’t put a football team together? As that wouldn’t be much of a World Cup. Who exactly is the person to decide to align with every single value and policy? Because history dictates that we just don’t.”
Britton also reflected on the current cost of living crisis that the UK, and indeed other nations, are currently facing in the wake of the pandemic, which would also impact such a costly event.
“It is the World Cup after all, and if they’re allowing these nations to put football teams in they’ve at least got to allow them to host the event as well. You’ve got to imagine the costs associated with hosting an event and Qatar have put itself forward to do just that."
But others couldn't see past the country's views on same-sex relationships, which has led one Premier League staff member to boycott the entirety of the event.
Tom Blewitt, a 29-year-old social media manager for the Wolverhampton Wanderers, was left ‘disgusted’ at the decision to hold the event in Qatar.
Blewitt told UNILAD: “I just think it’s wrong. But you know, FIFA has given this contract to Qatar for its World Cup. I don't believe it should be there, it’s just disgusting.”
After reports surfaced of a gay man who claimed to be gang raped by Qatari police for his sexuality, it’s understandable that those in the LGBTQ+ community, like Blewitt, would feel ‘unsafe’ in the country.
Blewitt, who identifies as gay, told us: “We've seen an article where allegations were made of a gay man who was raped by Qatari officials and deported and you know, that if they can dish out rape as punishment… No one deserves to be raped. And if you're going to be raped just for being gay, it's just appalling, disgusting.
“And it should not be held in Qatar, because people like me just do not feel safe.”
Blewitt was originally introduced to football in his childhood, and the football community continued to welcome him with open arms after he came out as gay in adulthood.
“My granddad took me to my first game when I was about five,” Blewitt recalled. “It was a Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) game. It was Wolves vs Arsenal at the time, we lost but it was a great memory and since then I’ve been a massive Wolves fan.”
After Blewitt came out at age 21, he thought the football community ‘have been brilliant’ in the support he received.
“About eight years ago now I came out, and it was the best thing I did. My friends accept me, my family accepts me. There are quite a few of us who work on the ‘Wolfpack’, they’re all supportive.
“I have an LGBT Wolves flag which I take to every game. It’s been brilliant, I have no problems in football.”
In 2022, there has only been one British professional footballer to come out as openly gay since 1990, and his name is Jake Daniels.
Daniels, who plays as a forward for EFL Championship club Blackpool, put a stop to decades of stigma within the British football community since Justin Fashanu became the first footballer to come out in 1990.
So for Blewitt, who also navigated his sexuality in a sport which historically has a lack of representation for those in the LGBTQ+ community, he can’t understand why FIFA chose Qatar to host the football celebrations.
“I think that FIFA should have reconsidered years ago… It should never have been on the table.
“The fact that FIFA is trying to claim that they support LGBT rights but then give a contract to a country that doesn’t support LGBT rights in any way, shape or form is just not good and it’s wrong," Blewitt said.
“I think they need to consider, do they really support LGBT rights, or not?”
And to this, Britton asked why protesters didn't raise these points when Qatar was awarded The World Cup back in 2010.
Britton asked: “The decision to host was made in 2010, where was everyone’s voice then?
“Do I agree with their human rights record? Of course not,” Britton explained. “But we need to move forward and encourage countries like Qatar to modernise and understand the importance of human values.
“Now is the opportunity to focus Qatar on these important areas of human rights, if they don’t change, then we can boycott them by not being tourists and by not travelling there,” Britton concluded.
Blewitt, however, is ‘grateful’ that he is able to be himself in both the football community and the place he lives in.
He said: “I'm just grateful that I live in a country where now homosexuality and gay people are accepted.
“[We’re] still [subjected to] homophobia, but it's nowhere near on the scale of what Qatar is. And I'm just glad that I live in a country where I feel safe and I can be me.”
UNILAD has contacted a representative of FIFA and the Qatar government for a comment.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]