Fifa has warned it will terminate the World Cup contracts of any Qatar hotel - or any other service provider - that discriminates against gay people.
It follows an investigation by journalists working for media groups in Sweden and Denmark, who posed as a newly-wed gay couple, and reported that three hotels on Fifa’s own recommended list did not accept their proposed reservation.
Fifa responded by holding urgent talks with local World Cup organisers and says it “will ensure that the hotels mentioned are once again made aware of our strict requirements in relation to welcoming guests in a non-discriminatory manner”.
A spokesperson added: “Hotels, as well as any other service provider associated with the Fifa World Cup, who fail to comply with the high standards set by the organisers will have their contracts terminated. On top of that, the said requirements will continue to be reinforced in awareness raising sessions and subsequently monitored and evaluated through audits and inspections of hotels linked to the Fifa World Cup.”
According to NRK, SVT in Sweden and DR in Denmark, the journalists contacted 69 hotels and, although 33 did accept a booking from the male couple, the investigation found one-third ether did not accept the reservation or expressed concerns.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar but Fifa president Gianni Infantino insisted last year that “all are welcome in Qatar” and said that LGBTQ fans should attend the tournament and “engage and speak and convince” during their stay.
The investigation into the hotels began in March, with the journalists having not specified a date for their honeymoon when they contacted the hotels by email and telephone to enquire about hotel policy.
“Among the hotels that have answered no, one has answered by email,” said NRK. “The other two have answered the phone. In both cases where hotels have answered the phone, the person in question has conferred with colleagues / superiors before we have received an answer.”
One hotel reportedly replied: “I would like to inform you that we have previously had incidents where the police have picked up Qataris at the hotel who have had homosexual relationships.”
'Fifa strives to create a discrimination-free environment'
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, an official in the Qatari government, said last month that LGBTQ fans would be welcome to book rooms during the tournament.
“Reserve the room together, sleep together - this is something that's not in our concern,” he said. “We are here to manage the tournament.”
Al Ansari, however, did counsel against overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms. “If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to… but to protect him,” he told the Associated Press.
“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him)... I cannot guarantee the behavior of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point’. We cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.”
The tournament’s Q&A also specifically addressed the issue. “Are non-married friends of different genders or couples (including LGBTQ+) allowed to stay in the same room?” asks one of the questions. “Yes, there are no restrictions,” says the reply.
In its statement, Fifa said its position “on inclusivity and the protection of human rights is unequivocal”. The spokesperson added: “Discrimination of any kind on account of sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited. Fifa strives to create a discrimination-free environment and promote diversity within its organisation and in all of its activities and events.
“Qatar as a host country is fully aware of its responsibility to adhere to Fifa's expectations and requirements on human rights, equality and non-discrimination. Qatar is committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, to building bridges of cultural understanding and to creating an inclusive experience for all participants, attendees and local communities, including from the LGBTQI+ community.”
Fifa also said it was in regular dialogue with fans groups, as well as the Qatar authorities, and there would be a legal basis of protection for people related to the World Cup. “Fifa is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTQI+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as everyone else,” the spokesperson added.