The Fare Network have established a Whatsapp helpline for LGBT+ football fans in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, which kicks off in Russia next week. The safety line has been set-up to support visiting minorities in Russia with “issues of discrimination to report or who require other urgent help” and will be active from the start of the World Cup. The number is + 7 916 948 11 08.
The line was created in response to a study by Fare, an anti-discriminatoin organisation who have been releasing statistical reports since 2012, presenting a “comprehensive overview of racism, xenophobia and homophobia in Russian football.” In a report released last week, Fare Network and the Moscow-based SOVA Center have found that homphobic chants are at a new recorded high. The report found that over a three month period, twelve homophobic chants took place at matches that targeted the LGBT+ community in Russian football.
The report notes an increase of homphobia in football, which the authors blame on the nation’s widespread institutionalisation of homophobia. Piara Powar, Exectutive Director of Fare, has spoken out against Russian football authorities and FIFA, saying that they have “missed valuable opportunities and time to deliver lasting change in Russia.” In regards to the findings of Fare’s report, he released the following statement:
“There are reasons to hope that the World Cup authorities will not allow serious violent incidents to take place by using all the resources of law enforcement agencies and special services. However, the football authorities in Russia and FIFA have missed valuable opportunities and time to deliver lasting change in Russia.”
“We hope the spirit that brings people together will keep fans with provocative intentions out of the World Cup, and equality and understanding will be the prevalent story of Russia 2018.”
In the weeks leading up to the World Cup, LGBT+ fans travelling to Russia for the event have been warned by organisations such as the Bristish Foreign and Commonwealth Office that “public attitudes towards LGBT+ people are less tolerant than in the UK” and that “certain things must be treated with caution in societies less tolerant than back home”.
While homosexuality has been decriminalised in Russia since 1993, public displays of sexuality are discouraged, due to the Chistian Orthidox beliefs held by many in the Russian community. According to Russia’s 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law, spreading any LBGT+ related information that could be seen by minors could result in a fine, and could lead to arrest in extreme cases. It is not an offense for fans to wear rainbow pins or carry flags, unless treated as a demonstration by police.
As well as the Whatsapp hotline, Fare have launched a Diversity Guide, which offers safety advice and guidance to the LGBT+ community and ethnic minorities travelling to Russia for the World Cup. They also will also be running a Diversity House project throughout the games in Moscow and St.Petersberg. It will act as a safe space for people to create awareness and change, celebrate diversity and meet people through football.
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