Qatar’s World Cup chief has said that gay fans will be able to display affection during the World Cup, rainbow flags will be allowed and alcohol will be more widely available.
Nasser Al Khater told Sky News that Qatar is not prepared to change laws on homosexuality, but insisted nobody will be discriminated against during the tournament and that gay fans can hold hands.
“All we ask is for people to be respectful of the culture,” Mr Al Khater said. “At the end of the day, as long as you don’t do anything that harms other people, if you’re not destroying public property, as long as you’re behaving in a way that’s not harmful, then everybody’s welcome and you have nothing to worry about.”
Although Al Khater has said fans can display rainbow flags, he said “it’s a FIFA matter” whether approval is given for Harry Kane, the England captain, and Gareth Bale, his Welsh counterpart, to wear multicoloured “One Love” armbands that highlight discrimination.
“From what I understand, there are discussions taking place about the different political messages that are going to be,” Mr Al Khater said. He added: “This is a sporting tournament that people want to come [to] and enjoy. Turning it into a platform of political statements I don’t think is right for the sport.”
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalises acts of “sodomy” and sexual intercourse between people of the same sex. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Both men and women are criminalised under this law.
Qatar has also opened up more areas for the sale of alcohol – including outside stadiums and in fan zones – rather than it remaining restricted to hotel bars.
Al Khater said: “There are plans in place for people to sober up if they’ve been drinking excessively. “It’s a place to make sure that they keep themselves safe, they’re not harmful to anybody else.”
Qatari law stipulates that it is an offence to drink alcohol or to be drunk in public. Drinking in a public place could result in a prison sentence of up to 6 months and/or a fine up to QAR3,000.
Alcohol is available only at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and expatriates living in Qatar can obtain alcohol on a permit system.