FA chief Mark Bullingham says there is a ‘desire for change’ in Qatar ahead of World Cup

    (The FA via Getty Images)

(The FA via Getty Images)

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said he experienced “a desire for change” in Qatar ahead of this winter’s World Cup.

Bullingham was speaking as the FA joined nine other European FAs in supporting a seasonal OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.

Some LGBTQ+ England supporters do not travel to the Muslim-majority nation, which criminalizes same-sex relationships and the promotion of same-sex relationships.

An enabling law is planned in the Arab state, which means that petty crimes will not be prosecuted.

Rainbow flags are allowed at matches as long as they are not inappropriately draped, the FA chief said.

Bullingham said his organization is also lobbying the game’s global governing body, FIFA, for an update on a compensation scheme for migrant workers who have helped build stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar.

Amnesty International has urged FIFA to set up a fund of at least £350m for workers who have suffered “human rights abuses” – a sum equivalent to the World Cup prize pool. It comes amid reports some have been paid as little as £12 for working 11-hour shifts.

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Asked what his advice was for gay England fans planning a trip, Bullingham told reporters on Wednesday: “We understand that concern. I understand that some of them will not go out.

“The overall message we have from Qatar is very clear: everyone is welcome and these communities are absolutely welcome.

“We have asked the question in many meetings if it is on site with the security teams and they all certainly give the right answers. Some information is still required. What is the accommodation like and so on?

“This [LGBTQ+] Communities realized they don’t yet have all the information they need to make that decision.”

When asked if he thinks Qataris could go further in promoting human rights, Bullingham added: “If you look at LGBTQ rights, there are ingrained societal, cultural and religious beliefs that are likely to change in the foreseeable future time will probably not change.

“I think the approach there was to welcome people. I don’t think we expect any significant changes in legislation related to these communities.

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“I have seen an absolute desire for change in terms of human rights, building rights and labor rights. That’s not every single person you meet. I think the authorities really took seriously the changes they brought about.

“When they talk about it, they’re actually pretty proud of what they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. It is from a low base.”

It was announced on Wednesday that England captain Harry Kane and the captains of the eight other countries that qualified for the World Cup will wear the OneLove armband in Qatar.

Kane will don his for the first time in Friday night’s Nations League game against Italy.

Kane said, “I’m honored to join my fellow captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign.

“As captains, we all compete against each other on the pitch, but together we stand against any form of discrimination.

“This is all the more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message as the world watches.”

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The FA said a group of migrant workers had been invited to England’s World Cup training base in Al Wakrah to meet the players.

Amnesty welcomed the IA’s position on discrimination and the rights of migrant workers.

The organisation’s head of priority campaigns, Felix Jakens, said: “The FA’s pledge to support efforts to eliminate abuses faced by thousands of migrant workers in Qatar – including at a migrant workers’ center – could be significant, but we must yet to see if this is seriously taken up by either the Qatari authorities or FIFA.

“Human rights issues have plagued preparations for this World Cup and we were previously disappointed by years of FA reticence and overly optimistic statements about ‘progress’ in Qatar.

“Unexplained deaths of migrant workers, workers who are cheated of their wages and others who work extremely long hours are just some of the issues that Qatar’s patchy labor laws still fail to address.

“Top football is immensely rich and really influential and FIFA should have insisted on human rights clauses when originally evaluating Qatar’s bid.”

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