Central PA's LGBT News Source

LGBT+ soccer fans: you've been warned

Be prepared for Russia


Thousands of England fans are expected to travel to the world's largest nation for Russia 2018, which begins on June 14, and the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) - in partnership with the Football Association and Foreign and Commonwealth Office - has issued travel advice which warns attitudes may be less tolerant than at home.

According to the FSF guide published on Gov.uk, same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but fans have been warned there are no laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

It states there is no reason for LGBT people not to go to the World Cup but says: "Unfortunately the issue of LGBT+ rights has appeared a topic of taboo to the authorities ahead of Russia 2018, unlike before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, when Russian president Vladimir Putin said that gay people would be welcome in Sochi."

It adds, however, that Russia will most likely want the World Cup to run smoothly, so "it is highly probable there will be additional focus on ensuring that homophobia and other forms of discrimination don't take place".

It goes on to warn that since 2013 "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors is prohibited, including talking about homosexuality issues or gay rights.

Anti-discrimination group Fare is also set to produce a Russia 2018 guide for fans from the black and ethnic minority and LGBT communities.

Speaking at the end of last year, its director Piara Powar said: "The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community.
"The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans - do go to the World Cup but be cautious."

At the time, the group had asked FIFA if fans could wave rainbow flags at World Cup matches.

The FSF guide says former Chelsea player and the Russian FA's equality officer Alexei Smertin advised there would be no ban on rainbow colours in Russia and fans would not be victimized for expressing feelings.

Quoted in the Guardian last year, Smertin said: "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."

The FSF cautions that Russian LGBT activists have been detained for flying the rainbow flag during a demonstration, but fans travelling to Russia might have a different experience "when the world's media will be focused upon the country".

FIFA has previously stated it has a "zero-tolerance approach to discrimination" and its disciplinary code has been amended to include homophobia, which could see anyone in breach of its rules facing expulsion from the tournament.