Barcelona faces backlash after issuing warning for LGBTQ+ fans travelling to Saudi Arabia

LGBTQ+ supporters travelling to Riyadh for Barcelona's fixture against Osasuna have been warned about the possibility of facing "severe penalties" for certain behaviours.

A photo of the Barcelona men's football team who are due to play in Saudi Arabia. The players pose on the pitch, all wearing a Barcelona football kit.
Image: X: @FCBarcelona

Barcelona Football Club has received backlash after advising LGBTQ+ fans against certain behaviours when travelling to matches in Saudi Arabia. The comments came as the European sporting giant prepares to face Osasuna in the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup, which takes place in Riyadh on Thursday, January 11. 

In a statement published on its website, the club wrote, “People are advised to be respectful and prudent when it comes to public demonstrations of affection. Indecent behaviour, including any action of a sexual nature, can lead to severe legal consequence for foreigners.

“Same-sex relations can also be subjected to severe penalties, as well as open displays of support for LGBTI causes, even on social media.”

Issuing the notice in partnership with the Real Federación Española de Futbol and under the instruction of the Spanish Embassy in Riyadh, the club also listed several general safety recommendations which include “Be prudent and discrete, especially in public places” and “Strictly respect the country’s customs and ways”.

Responding to Barcelona’s statement, Minky Worden, the Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian, “This briefing serves as a reminder that there is currently no human rights framework for fans, players, journalists or anyone else travelling to Saudi Arabia for a sporting event. This is the main problem and what is required is due diligence to establish the risks people might face.”

She also noted that there was “a gap in information for women fans”, adding “Perhaps it’s assuming they don’t exist or that they have the same needs as male fans, which is just incorrect. The Saudi guardianship system presents risks to women which are not at all considered. Equally, there is no mention of the risks in terms of information security.”

Worden concluded by expressing, “At the same time, you don’t carry out your responsibilities just by saying: ‘If you’re going to be a fan don’t be gay.’ And, by the way, the same goes for heterosexual fans: ‘you can’t kiss if you win.’”

Similarly, Penya Almogàvers, an officially recognised Barcelona supporters’ group, shared, “Enough with the hypocrisy,” alongside a photo of club representatives promoting a human rights initiative earlier this week.

“While supporting human rights, recommendations are given to fans for the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia, a country where human rights are not respected,” they wrote.

Addressing Barcelona’s president, Penya Almogàvers added, “Where are the club’s values, Joan Laporta? Boycott the Supercopa.”


This is the fourth time the Spanish Super Cup has been hosted in Saudi Arabia, with the final taking place on Sunday. It is one of the many ways the Gulf nation has boosted its profile within the footballing world in recent times, as it has also used lucrative deals to attract some of the world’s biggest stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo, to the Saudi Pro League. Furthermore, the country is set to host the men’s World Cup in 2034 as it is the sole bidder for the tournament.

As well as becoming a key player in football, Saudi Arabia has also invested vastly in Formula 1 racing and boxing, with the country’s sportwashing tactics becoming a growing concern for human rights advocates.

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