World Cup LGBT football fans in Russia threatened with being ‘stabbed’
A UK alliance of LGBT football fans has received threatening anonymous emails, including a warning that they would be “stabbed” if they made the trip to Russia.
Norwich fan Di Cunningham, who is attending England’s first match against Tunisia on Monday, said she was apprehensive about travelling to the World Cup because of the threats.
“We have received several warnings that LGBT fans will not be welcome in Russia and some were quite drastic in terms of what would happen to us if we did go,” Cunningham told Al Jazeera.
Cunningham added that it was “unfortunate” that FIFA is holding the prestigious tournament in a country where “some people are unwelcomed [sic].”
According to Al Jazeera, Pride in Football, the UK alliance for fan groups that belong to the LGBT community, has handed a complaint to FIFA, and Al Jazeera were told that the threats are being investigated.
The group will unfurl a rainbow England flag during the Tunisia match on Monday, according to Sky Sports News.
But Cunningham admitted she was “fearful” of displaying the LGBT flag at the match. “There have been a lot of LGBT+ fans who have felt unable to come and who have expressed that concern, and have expressed concern for people like me that are coming,” she told Sky Sports News.
“[I’m getting] constant messages, saying ‘stay safe.’ It is very nice but it raises your anxiety levels even more,” she added.
Cunningham said the LGBT+ England flag has had backing from the FA. “The FA definitely wants it to be seen and wants us to go. They have endorsed it.”
“It’s a very limited run. We are not allowed to sell them or make any more of them. The FA wants the visibility and association with LGBTQ+ inclusion.”
The other Three Lions Pride fans alongside Cunningham will also have rainbow flags to wave.
Before the World Cup, the government warned fans that “public attitudes towards LGBT+ people are less tolerant than in the UK,” before directing them to guidance published by the Football Supporters’ Federation which “strongly encouraged supporters to “not publicly display your sexuality.”
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But an FA spokesperson made it clear that the organisation was in support of LGBT visibility from England fans in the Russian stands.
“We have been building links with LGBT+ fan groups by using England home games as a focal point,” they said. “We continue to support their good work, and back their use of a Three Lions rainbow crest at the England games at the FIFA 2018 World Cup.”
Cunningham said that the flags would also make it clear how they felt about FIFA’s decision to hold the most important tournament in world football in a country which has seen anti-LGBT hate crimes double since the introduction of a law banning gay “propaganda.”
The 2013 legislation, which prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” towards minors, has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.