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James Cleverly tells fans to show 'flex and compromise' at World Cup

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tells gay football fans to be ‘respectful’ of Qatar as he takes swipe at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s boycott of World Cup and says he WILL attend next month’s tournament

  • Foreign Secretary urges gay football fans to show ‘flex and compromise’ in Qatar
  • James Cleverly tells supporters at World Cup to be ‘respectful’ of the host nation
  • He also swipes at Labour’s Keir Starmer, who is planning to boycott tournament 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly today urged gay England fans to show ‘flex and compromise’ towards the host nation during next month’s World Cup in Qatar.

With 25 days until the tournament kicks off in the Gulf state, concerns remain over how LGBT+ fans will be treated in the Islamic country.

Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar, while there are also strict laws on alcohol, drugs, public intimacy, relationships outside marriage, dress and swearing. 

Veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell has said he was arrested this week in Qatar after staging the first ever LGBT+ protest in the country to ‘shine a light’ on human rights abuses. 

Mr Cleverly said Qatari authorities know they will have to make ‘some compromises’ when football fans from across the globe begin arriving for the start of the World Cup on November 20.

But he also urged LGBT+ fans to ‘be respectful of the host nation’ in comments that were promptly branded ‘shockingly tone deaf’ by critics.

Speaking to LBC Radio this morning, the Foreign Secretary – who was yesterday re-appointed to the role during new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle – took a swipe at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir this week said he would not travel to Qatar for the World Cup, even if England reached the final.

But Mr Cleverly revealed he would go to the World Cup if he’s able to.

‘As Leader of the Opposition, he’s in a lovely position to send messages. I’ve got real work to do,’ the Foreign Secretary jibed at Sir Keir.

Mr Tatchell hit back at Mr Cleverly’s comments as he claimed attending the tournament was akin to ‘colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime’. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged gay England fans to show ‘flex and compromise’ towards the host nation during next month’s World Cup in Qatar

Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar, while there are also strict laws on alcohol, drugs, public intimacy, relationships outside marriage, dress and swearing

Mr Cleverly urged LGBT+ England fans to ‘be respectful of the host nation’ in comments that were promptly branded ‘shockingly tone deaf’ by critics

In his radio interview, Mr Cleverly admitted he hadn’t spoken to Qatari authorities in direct response to Mr Tatchell’s case.

‘My understanding is he was questioned, he was supported by the FCDO’s consular team,’ the Foreign Secretary said.

‘I have spoken to the Qatari authorities in the past about gay football fans going to watch the World Cup and how they will treat our fans and international fans.

‘They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves.

‘They know that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.  

‘One of the things I would say to football fans is please do be respectful of the host nation.

‘They will try, they are trying, to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football.

‘And I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.’

Veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell has said he was arrested this week in Qatar after staging the first ever LGBT+ protest in the country to ‘shine a light’ on human rights abuses

Asked if he would attend the tournament, Mr Cleverly revealed he’d had to rearrange his diary because of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle.

But he added: ‘I think, if I am able to go, I should go.

‘Because it is a major international event, there’ll be lots of my international interlocutors there and also there’ll be a whole load of Brits overseas.

‘One of the first duties of the Foreign Office is protecting British nationals when they travel overseas.’

Responding to Mr Cleverly’s comments, Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: ‘This is shockingly tone deaf from James Cleverly. Sport should be open to all.

‘Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.

‘The Government should be challenging FIFA on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.’

Mr Tatchell said in a statement: ‘We had great consular service after our protest. The UK Government must use its public voice to condemn the appalling human rights abuses carried out daily by the Qatari regime.

‘Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of sports-washing its appalling reputation during the World Cup.

‘Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses being carried out by the regime.

‘All fans, not just LGBTs, should boycott the World Cup and use their social media to amplify the shocking human rights abuses by the Qatari state.

‘Going to the World Cup is colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime.’ 

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