England LGBT+ fans still unsure they can go to Qatar World Cup over safety fears

In six month's time, Gareth Southgate will be making his final plans, Harry Kane and Co will be in their training camp and the nation will be eagerly anticipating the World Cup getting underway.

All of those are definite. But whether England's LGBT+ fans will be travelling out to Qatar remains a mystery, because they have still not received the assurances they feel are necessary to guarantee their safety in the Middle East.

Three Lions Pride released a joint-statement with several other fan groups last month as they once again sought more clarity – but their repeated pleas to FIFA and the Qatar Supreme Committee have fallen on deaf ears.

Co-founder Joe White told Daily Star Sport: "At the moment I'm still not sure of what I have planned aside from continuing to speak about human rights and LGBT+ inclusion.

"As I've said previously along with other queer fans, concrete examples of how the organisers can guarantee safety, risk reduction and prevention are extremely important.

"And this isn't limited to the stadia but is relevant across accommodation and general attendance. It's also in addition to many LGBT+ fans wanting to ensure that the local community isn't negatively impacted pre, during or post tournament.

"Freedom of expression and basic human rights to live authentically are not about being queer, but are about being yourself without fear of harm or persecution."

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and LGBT+ individuals can be prevented from entering the Arab country. Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, who is helping to oversee security for the tournament, assured LGBT+ couples would be welcomed earlier year this.

But in the same breath he urged fans to not bring rainbow flags to games. "Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern," he added.

"We are here to manage the tournament. Let’s not go beyond, the individual personal things which might be happening between these people. Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup."

Three Lions Pride defied Russia, where homosexuality is not illegal but equally not welcomed, four years ago as they flew their flags while Southgate's side reached the semi-finals. "I think it is easy to conflate the two when the situations, culture and experiences would be very different," Joe added.

"There are learning points, such as safety in numbers and not wanting to travel solo, which can be relevant but we respect that Russia is a different country to Qatar and both have differing histories with queer identities and different approaches.

"The other thing to be conscious of at any World Cup is you also have fans from across the world, from varying cultures and experiences, gathering together through a love of football. In that, there will be fans who do not believe that queer people should exist."

Southgate has spoken out about Qatar's many failings as World Cup hosts, drawing the ire of their chiefs in the process. He expressed his sorrow at the predicament facing LGBT+ supporters and is just as gutted as they are that their support might be missing.

Summing up his feelings with the clock ticking down to the opening match, Joe said: "Excitement of this England team tinged with apathy and regret that we are six months away and unsure whether to go or whether we would feel safe being ourselves enjoying following England."

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