Gay football fans will be warned against public displays of affection at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The precautionary guidelines have been produced by FARE, a pressure group that campaigns for equality in football, and will be handed out to fans travelling to the country for the high-profile football tournament next year.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, however the climate for LGBTQ people remains bleak.
Gay people in Russia face constant fear under the country’s 2013 anti-gay propaganda law, which bans the ‘promotion’ of “non-traditional relationships” to minors and has encouraged discrimination.
Meanwhile, in the Russian republic of Chechnya, reports have emerged of gay men being rounded up by police and held in modern-day ‘concentration camps’, tortured, and even murdered because of their sexuality.
“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community,” said Piara Powar, executive director of FARE.
“The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans – do go to the World Cup, but be cautious.
“If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.”
He continued: “The guide will also include some detailed explanations of, for example, the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. It is not a crime to be gay but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
“Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”
Fans from Britain and Germany have requested that FIFA allows them to raise a rainbow flag inside the stadium as a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, although FARE says it’s unclear if they’ll be allowed.
“FIFA has not really responded so far to say if this is something the security services will allow,” Powar said.
While political messages aren’t allowed in stadiums, it’s believed that fans will be allowed to raise a rainbow flag as the governing body wouldn’t consider them to fall under that category.
“There’s nothing in the regulation from FIFA that prevents anyone from entering the stadiums with non-political messages,” said Federico Addiechi, head of diversity at FIFA.
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