Liverpool’s chief executive said the English football club was given assurances by Qatari authorities that their LGBT supporters will be welcome in the conservative Gulf state for next month’s FIFA Club World Cup.
Qatari officials met with Liverpool supporter groups – including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group “Kop Outs!” – to discuss their concerns about attending the tournament that runs from December 11-21.
As in a number of Muslim-majority countries, homosexual acts are strictly prohibited in Qatar but the law around transgender people is unclear.
“We have received assurances that our LGBT supporters will be welcome in Qatar, something that was vitally important to us as a club, given our long-standing commitment to both diversity and equality,” Peter Moore told the club’s website in an interview on Monday.
The Club World Cup, which features the winners of each continent’s club competitions, will serve as a trial event as Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Nasser al-Khater, chief executive of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising committee, has previously said fans of all gender orientation would be welcome in the country, which is governed by Islamic-based legal codes.
Moore said Liverpool, which as European champions will feature in the December 18 semifinal in Doha, held talks on a number of issues.
“We have sought and received information on match tickets, hotel provisions, stadium readiness, safety issues, cultural matters and a whole host of other issues. No stone has been left unturned,” he said.
Thousands of fans from the United Kingdom are expected to attend the tournament, according to early ticket sales.
On Monday, Liverpool issued travel guidelines on its website for all Reds fans planning to make the trip to Doha.
“Qatar is a conservative country based on sharia (Islamic) law. Visitors should familiarise themselves with local laws and customs prior to travel and be mindful that behaviours that are acceptable in the UK might be considered offensive in Doha,” the club said.
Moore said while assurances were welcome, it was not the club’s role to dictate terms to the Qataris.
“I think it is important that we have to have the humility … that we are a football club first, second and last. We are not a political organisation and it is neither our place or our ambition to go from country to country forcing our values and our beliefs on others,” he said.
“If the involvement of our football club, or any other football club, for that matter, helps prompt positive change then I would be the first to welcome that. But that shouldn’t be the measurement of our involvement.”
Qatar also wants to make alcohol accessible for visiting fans when it hosts the World Cup in three years’ time with designated locations.
But it is unclear if similar arrangements will be made for the seven-team club tournament next month.
“Qatar is a conservative country, it’s a modest country. Alcohol is not part of our culture, however, hospitality is,” al-Khater said in September.
Alcohol in Qatar can only be bought and consumed in a handful of hotels, while visitors cannot import it into the country. Being drunk in a public place is socially unacceptable.