Stonewall urges sporting community to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights during Qatar World Cup

“The World Cup is a vital moment for the global sporting community to stand up and call out the criminalisation and persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar.”

Promotional image from the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign, launched ahead of the World Cup.
Image: Twitter: @StonewallUK

Launching its award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign for a ninth year, Stonewall has called upon the global sporting community to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights at the Qatar World Cup. The tournament, which has been the subject of much controversy, is due to kick off on November 20, and will run until December 18.

FIFA has come under fire for granting hosting rights to Qatar, a country criticised for its treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people. Homosexuality remains criminalised in the Gulf nation, and is punishable by imprisonment and even death under Sharia law. 

While FIFA and Qatari officials have confirmed that the tournament will be inclusive for all with certain anti-queer laws being waived for the duration of the event, safety fears remain for the LGBTQ+ community.

“As we approach the 2022 Men’s World Cup, we must remember that Qatar is a country where LGBTQ+ people are persecuted simply for being themselves,” Liz Ward, Director of Programmes at Stonewall, said.

“Sadly, this year’s tournament is not safe for everyone, which is why it’s so important to see players and fans stand up to be counted.

“The World Cup is a vital moment for the global sporting community to stand up and call out the criminalisation and persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar,” Ward continued.

While launching its annual campaign which encourages sportspeople to don rainbow-coloured laces in solidarity with the queer community, Stonewall also released findings from its recent study surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. The research, conducted in partnership with ICM/Walnut, revealed that the percentage of sports fans who think homophobic remarks are acceptable fell from 25% in 2017 to 14% in 2022.

“Since the beginning of the Rainbow Laces campaign, we’ve seen awareness grow and grow, with more than one million laces modelled in boots across the world’s pitches and, as a result, we’ve seen attitudes fundamentally shift – the majority of Britons are now supportive of LGBTQ+ athletes,” Ward stated.

“However, we cannot become complacent. This new research shows that the public recognise that there is more work to do to create a world where LGBTQ+ people are free to be themselves both on and off the pitch.”

The findings that Liz Ward is referring to reveal that fans still do not feel confident that elite sports are welcoming for LGBTQ+ athletes. Just 40% of those surveyed think competitive sport is welcoming for gay and bisexual men, 43% think it is welcoming for lesbian and bisexual women, while 30% think the sector is welcoming for Trans sports personalities.

“This Rainbow Laces season, it’s vital that we all ‘Keep it Up’ and truly make sport everyone’s game,” the Stonewall representative concluded.


The 2022 Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign runs from October 19 – 31, with the official Rainbow Laces Day taking place on October 26.

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