Executive Director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), Piara Powar, has declared the World Cup could change Russia and Qatar.
A new law in Russia, which prohibits homosexual ‘propaganda’, has highlighted the intolerant nature of the upcoming World Cup hosts and sparked questions over whether FIFA should effectively reward such countries with their biggest football tournament.
Russia is set to host the World Cup in 2018, while Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, has been awarded hosting rights for 2022.
But Powar has argued it would be wrong to simply hold the World Cup in liberal countries.
“If we had a World Cup tomorrow in either of those countries, then, yes, I think it would be the wrong message,” Powar said.
“But the fact is we have some time to lobby those regimes and, trust me, the old GBT (Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) lobby is already working hard to point out the hypocrisy of Russia’s stance and the problems in relation to the new law.
“I think, in the end, we can’t just take the World Cup and other sporting tournaments to countries that are deemed to be liberal; countries that, in the end, are going to be in maybe one of a bracket of 10 or 15 countries.
“That’s not open and that’s not genuinely being the world game.”
Powar added that he believes football can help modernise countries such as Russia and Qatar.
“I think that is part of the role we have to play,” Powar said.
“To try to make sure that the arrival and prospect of a World Cup, the prospect of football playing a social role, is one that countries understand and then try to move forward on that basis.
“We don’t have the perfect situation or the perfect world and, in the end, people like me and other activists, our job is to try and push as hard as we can.”